James Brown Live at the Apollo (1963)

In 1962, James Brown was known, but not—owwwww!—well known. Frustrated at his inability to break through, the ever-savvy J.B. asked his label to record one of his acclaimed live shows and release it as an album. When the label refused, Brown bankrolled the recording himself. “Are you ready for star time?” the emcee asks the Apollo crowd on the night of October 24, and for the next 40 minutes Brown puts on a flawless show of dynamism that lost nothing in the transfer to vinyl. Only a few thousand copies of the original were pressed, but demand became so great (it ultimately sold well over a million) that DJs played the album in its entirety, and the legend of the hardest working man in showbiz was born.

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