by Alicia Benjamin
All go-go music, a Washington D.C. percussion-driven creation with Latin and African flavors, makes you want to get up and dance. Part of the fun is that musicians include the audience in just about all of the songs -- go-go requires that the band talk to the crowd and that the crowd talk back. If this ingredient is missing, then it's not go-go. With his CD Your Game... Live at the 9:30 Club, Chuck Brown keeps the go-go swing alive by inspiring his audience to contribute vocally to the recording.
The 70-year-old Brown, known as the godfather of go-go, manages to inject a youthful funky vibe into this performance, with other go-go icons like Little Benny and Big Tony joining in on the fun. Some of the songs go on too long (and I mean on and on and on), as almost all go-go songs do sometimes, but overall, this recording captures the spontaneity and spirit that go-go bands typically offer their crowds. Go-go bands have been known to inspire girls to dance so hard at pool parties that they strip while dancing to the beat.
With "One on One," "It's Love" and "Go Go Swing," Brown and company hype up the crowd so much that the audience doesn't need prompting to sing whole sections of the songs. "One on One" is Brown's most spirited offering. Cherie Mitchell on the organ introduces the song with such passion and spirit that it's like listening to a musician play at a church revival.
The audience members' loud vocal response to the song shows how intensely they identify with its message. Between catchy trumpet riffs and bass guitar licks, the crowd sings such lyrics as, "If you want to deal with the world then you've got to learn to deal with yourself. Once you learn to love yourself you can love everybody else."
When Brown and his crew give shout outs to people from sections of D.C., and its Maryland and Virginia suburbs, the crowd goes wild, especially on "Go Go Swing." Brown's remake of Jill Scott's "It's Love," which originally had a go-go vibe, brings the song closer to pure go-go. Cherie Mitchell's vocal delivery is so raw and harsh, she almost sounds like a man. She has to match the hard driving congas and drum beats that are such an integral part of go-go. You can feel the crowd dancing.
With this live recording, Brown, who helped create the go-go sound over 25 years ago, shows that he can still make the crowd sing and swing.
Chuck Brown's Website: http://www.windmeupchuck.com/