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Thanks for all the responses. Not that I have any idea how I'm going to act on them.

I was wandering around my old favorite parts of the East Village today, understanding more than I had before that I don't really belong to them any more. (The really hard part was seeing books and stores such that I know I would've been very interested in 14 years ago, when I moved to the city, and rolled my eyes at now: old soda, new bottles.) When I came home, I wanted to listen to music with something missing from it, so I put on the J.B.'s' Groove Machine album. It was released in 1979 by the T.K. Records subsidiary Drive; the band is, and is not, those J.B.'s. Which is to say that James Brown is involved on some level (he's credited as the producer and songwriter, with a co-writing credit on one track to his old associate Lee/Leon Austin), but it's hard to hear exactly where--he's not singing, there are none of his two-trick keyboard solos, there's not even Brownian yelping in the background. And, by 1979, the members of the J.B.'s who made the records that are still in print between 1970 and 1975 were long gone, except I think Jimmy Nolen, still on guitar, and St. Clair Pinckney, who'd switched to keyboards.

What Groove Machine sounds like, actually, is JB-outlined grooves, or backing tracks, for an album that he lost interest in before he could add lead vocals or actual song titles. (The titles: "Rock Groove Machine," "Georgia Peach Disco," "Just Wanna Make You Dance," "Rock Disco #1," "Rock.") Or maybe he just realized that it sounded fine the way it was. There are backing vocals sometimes; there are a few tricky horn fills and percussion details. And there's one sketch-for-something that I love so much I keep thinking it's a song, "Just Wanna Make You Dance," featuring a discoette or group of discoettes called Maxxi. The lyrics, aside from a perfunctory verse, go "Just wanna make you dance/Forget about romance/'Cause we can make love when the party's over"; the discoettes sing mostly in unison, but fan out for "love."

Cover art, by one Katheryn Holt: a dancing abstract geometrical graffiti-art female robot with high-heeled shoes made of stacks of rings, cloudy tubular beams for hair, and straight or shriveled neon snaky things surrounding her on the front cover, a mirror-image photographic negative of same on the back.

I can't tell if Groove Machine was finished or not, or whether someone decided that it was best unfinished. (There were a few other J.B.'s singles around the same time that later appeared as full-on James Brown album tracks, with him singing.) The only other album I know like it is Royal House's Come Over Here, Baby, which is a whole other subject.

Lisa suggests that she'd like "Rock Groove Machine" (a hybrid of the "Payback" groove, "It's Not the Express It's the J.B.'s Monaurail" and the beginning of "Blow Your Head," led by what I think is an out-of-control cuica) even more if the lyrics weren't "all aboard, all aboard, all aboard this groove machine" but "I want I want I want a smoochie!," which they sound like.

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This page contains a single entry by Douglas published on January 5, 2006 10:46 PM.

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