UMe/Republic Records will release James Brown’s We Got To Change, a three-track EP featuring the previously unheard title track, on Feb. 16. “We Got To Change” was recorded August 16, 1970, at Criteria Studios in Miami, during a pivotal period in the world of James Brown, as longtime members of his famed James Brown Orchestra had walked out a few months earlier. Pre-order HERE


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Brown quickly assembled a new group anchored by guitarist Phelps “Catfish” Collins and bassist William “Bootsy” Collins, two young brothers from Cincinnati. They brought a harder edge and a fresh identity to Brown’s music on such singles as “Get Up (I Feel Like Being) a Sex Machine,” “Super Bad,” and “Soul Power.” Brown called them The J.B.’s.

Their Criteria session featured a reunion with one of Brown’s 1960s sidemen: the great Clyde Stubblefield. “The Funky Drummer,” as he was known, would grace several of Brown’s subsequent hits, and would become one of the most sampled drummers of the hip-hop era. Also on the track is James Brown’s longtime no. 2, Bobby Byrd, who is heard alongside Brown on the chorus.


“We Got To Change” is another example of James Brown’s social outreach (and outrage), seen in singles like “Don’t Be a Dropout,” “Say It Loud I’m Black and I’m Proud,” “Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved” and “King Heroin.” It is also a testament to Brown’s diverse musical language, quoting from Little Jimmy Dickens’ 1949 hit “Take an Old Cold Tater (And Wait)” and the African-American anti-war spiritual, “Down by the Riverside.”

“The James Brown Revue invented the Funk,” says Funk author Rickey Vincent, “and the J.B.’s perfected it.” Newly unearthed and unheard, “We Got to Change” adds a critical page to the history of that perfection’s evolution.