20 All-Time Greatest Hits!

Common Sense Media says

Unbeatable soul and funk collection is a nonstop party.

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Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Positive messages

"Say It Loud (I'm Black and I'm Proud)" was an important song of empowerment in the African-American community in the late '60s. A message in several of Brown's songs is that self-expression through dancing can make you feel better.

Positive role models

Although James Brown did not live a particularly exemplary life offstage, his music is almost relentlessly upbeat and and positive, and he was a master showman who poured every ounce into his performances -- he wasn't called "the hardest-working man in show business" for nothing. His musical style, work ethic, and commitment to his music influenced generations of singers and songwriters.

Violence

There's some vague talk in the long funk tune "The Payback" about revenge.

Sex

The second song in this collection is the 1970 funk smash "Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine," which mentions the title and urges a woman to "shake your money maker" (a phrase that has appeared in countless songs since). "Hot Pants, Part One" celebrates booty-shaking, but it's more suggestive than lascivious. "Cold Sweat" also has sexual overtones.

Language
Not applicable
Consumerism
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Drinking, drugs, & smoking
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Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that James Brown's 20 All-Time Greatest Hits! is a compilation of the best songs by the great and hugely influential singer and songwriter, dubbed both the Godfather of Soul and the Father of Funk for his pioneering songs in both those genres during the 1950s, '60s, and '70s. All his biggest dance tunes are here, from the inescapable "I Got You (I Feel Good)" and "Get on the Good Foot" to "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" and "Say It Loud (I'm Black and I'm Proud)." One of his smash hits is "Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine" and another is "Hot Pants" (glorifying tight short-shorts popular in the early '70s), but, typical of Brown's tunes, they're more suggestive than overt. In fact, relatively few of his songs have much lyrical content beyond the title, instead consisting of simple phrases he sings, shouts, grunts, and squeals over the always rhythmic backing of his exceptionally funky band. This is party music first and foremost.

What's the story?

20 ALL-TIME GREATEST HITS! serves up R&B legend James Brown's most popular songs of the 1950s, '60s, and '70s, from the chart-topping doo-wop smashes "Please, Please, Please" and "Try Me" to soul classics such as "I Got You (I Feel Good)," "Cold Sweat," and "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag." There's the catchy, groove-oriented funk numbers "Super Bad," "Get on the Good Foot," "Get Up Offa That Thing," and the immortal dance track "Mother Popcorn." Also included is Brown's moody, strings-heavy "It's a Man's Man's Man's World," the horn-driven instrumental "Night Train," and the simmering, wah-wah-guitar-fueled "The Payback," which feels like an homage to Curtis Mayfield.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Dozens of James Brown "hits" collections have come out over the years, but this one is probably the best of the single-CD ones, spanning three decades -- every song a smash on the R&B charts in its time, and many "pop" crossover successes. Listeners who primarily enjoy his soul hits, such as "I Got You (I Feel Good)," "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag," and "Cold Sweat," might not have the patience to wade through some of the more simplistic and repetitive groove numbers from the '70s, which make up the bulk of the album, but each is a classic in its own way. The songs are not presented chronologically, which is actually a good thing; this highlights the diversity of Brown's repertoire and allows his incomparable voice to be the unifying element.

More careful listeners will be rewarded with some spectacular playing by Brown's always exciting backup bands, which included such notable players as horn greats "Pee Wee" Ellis and Maceo Parker and guitarist Jimmy Nolen. This is some of the coolest (and hottest!) dance music ever made. Fans of rap and hip-hop may recognize some of Brown's catchy riffs that have been "sampled" into any number of contemporary songs.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about why James Brown was nicknamed the Godfather of Soul. Do you think that's a fair moniker? 

  • Can you think of some contemporary soul singers? How does their sound differ from Brown's? How is it the same? Name some artists from other genres who could have been influenced by James Brown. 

  • Why do you think James Brown's music remains so popular today? 

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Music details

Artist:James Brown
Release date:October 22, 1991
Type:Album
Label:Polydor
Genre:Soul
Parental advisory:No
Edited version available:No

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