Soul on Top

Papa's got a brand new big band.

Papa's got a brand new big band. "Soul on Top," an instant anachronism when King Records first released it in 1969, has Brown singing Oliver Nelson arrangements of Tin Pan Alley standards backed by the big and loud Louis Bellson Orchestra. "That's My Desire," "September Song" and "What Kind of Fool Am I?" are all interesting oddities. JB doing Hank Williams' "Your Cheatin' Heart" doesn't make the case for soul/country/big-band fusion as much as it does Brown's unlimited audacity. (There are also big-band stylings of "Papa" and "There Was a Time" that are, at least, different.) Instead of adapting to the arrangements, the Godfather of Soul simply James Browns them into submission. Perhaps when Brown found out how much Wayne Newton and Elvis were making in Las Vegas, he thought he would see if the polished patent-leather shoe fit. While it didn't quite make it, the recording is as much kitschy fun as the priceless album cover photo.—WR