"Blues and Pants" - Fred Wesley

"Blues and Pants'" (PDF) from the James Brown album, Hot Pants.
Support this blog via Patreon.

Here's what I love about this recording: it an honest document of a good band having fun.  Having come home from a successful European tour, James Brown compiled an entire album, more or less, of songs about the hot pants fashion craze, essentially making the listener sit through a long, inside-joke.  The band knew it was good and knew how to party, and so there is a relaxed mentality of "anything goes" to its performance that developed from a tight and chaotic live show.

The recording process was simple, one take and let the tape roll.  The band would establish the groove, Brown would frame the song, and then the band would jam.  The tune would be edited down to be released as a single, and if the jam was good it would be included as a B-side or an instrumental track.  But in this case, it was all kept in tact to my bewilderment and delight.

As the band enters the jam, Brown is clearly heard calling for Fred Wesley to play.  For whatever reason, Fred misses this cue and Jimmy Parker eventually steps in on the alto sax, covering up Fred's late entrance.  A few bars go by until Brown realizes that he does not like what he hears and he puts a stop to it, as if he actually crawls through the studio around all the microphones and over to the horn section to confront them.  But my favorite part is the fact that they left this whole sequence in the final version on the album.  In today's world, it could have easily been edited out and seamless, but that process was difficult and expensive forty years ago.

So here is the real question: Which recording of the band would be more impressive, an artificially perfect performance, or a flawed recording that demonstrates how the tightly the band operated under James Brown?

Here is a fantastic YouTube video of an interview with Fred Wesley that covers his entire career.

Recommended Reading: Hit Me, Fred: Recollections of a Sideman by Fred Wesley Jr.  Published by Duke University Press.