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The King James version 

Take '06 remixed by Gnarls Barkley

Here in Dixie, there was never any doubt that the late Godfather of Soul/Hardest Working Man in Show Business/Mr. Dynamite James Brown was "the Alpha and the Omega of the African in African American" -- per friend/Ion ikon Greg Tate at Manhattan's Tonic club, after his big band Burnt Sugar deconstructed the JB Thang with special guest Vernon Reid on the eve of New Year's Eve.

Every time y'all get on the good foot from now on, recollect that King James Brown, with his primordial funk and soul power, was the most important creative force of the latter 20th century. Brown's impact on America and global culture rivals (and often supercedes) any icon you could name. As a Georgia Peach once removed, I cannot describe the immensity of this loss. During the holidays, I was at home in the Heights above Harlem when Mr. Brown came to lie in state at the Apollo, and Little Africa-on-the-Hudson's historic crossroads, 125th Street & X, was awash in folks takin' it to the bridge.

Yet I feel good that "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" -- and it's the Sex Machine that is Gnarls Barkley's Cee-Lo Green. Brer JB must've reveled in the Lautréamont-style meeting of Ennio Morricone and Dan Penn that is "Crazy." It's no coincidence that 2006 saw the apotheosis of Cee-Lo, the premier Dirty South sonic sophist/Georgia rawk Rev. to emerge since Brown's ascension in the 1950s. Cee-Lo, the once and future Goodie Mob-ster, has long toiled in the shadowlands of hip-hop, the genre spawned by Brown über alles, and -- in divine partnership with fellow eminent ATLien Danger Mouse -- restored brilliance and hard bop Afrofuturism to the Nation via the album of the year, St. Elsewhere. These iconoclastic tricksters -- heirs to Estevanico the Black, Buddy Bolden, Louis Jordan, Howlin' Wolf, Sun Ra, Sly, Steve Arrington and Prince Paul -- juggled nihilism and gutbucket like bombs at a Saturday night fish fry, redefining black masculinity as surely as JB did when he declared, "Say it loud, I'm black and I'm proud!" Grammys notwithstanding, GB's Boogie Monsters should Camel Walk into history. As James Luther Dickinson would say, "world boogie is coming" -- just when we direly need apprentice rhythm masters and magi of dark matter.

Gnarls Barkley plays Charlotte Bobcats Arena; Jan. 23; 7:30 p.m.; $56.50; 800-495-2295; www.charlottebobcatsarena.com.

BEST OF 2006:

GNARLS BARKLEY - ST. ELSEWHERE

Solomon Burke - Nashville

John Legend - Once Again

Karen Dalton - In My Own Time

Eugene McDaniels - Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse

David Crosby - If I Could Only Remember My Name

The Coup - Pick A Bigger Weapon

Salif Keita - M'Bemba

Dears - Gang of Losers

Bobby Bare Jr.'s Young Criminals Starvation League - The Longest Meow

Jonny Lang - Turn Around

Earl Greyhound - Soft Targets

Alejandro Escovedo - The Boxing Mirror

Hobex - Enlightened Soul

Cassandra Wilson - Thunderbird

Carolina Chocolate Drops - Dona Got a Ramblin' Mind

Sparklehorse - Dreamt for Light Years in the Belly of a Mountain

Robin Thicke - The Evolution of Robin Thicke

Carl Hancock Rux - Good Bread Alley

Centro-Matic - Fort Recovery

Kris Kristofferson - This Old Road

Dirty Dozen Brass Band - What's Goin' On

Bert Jansch - Black Swan

Charlie Louvin - Self titled (S/t)

Los Amigos Invisibles - Superpop Venezuela

New Orleans Social Club - Sing Me Back Home

Scissor Sisters - Ta-Dah

Mute Math - S/t

Aterciopelados - Oye

TV On The Radio - Return To Cookie Mountain

Black Crowes - The Lost Crowes

Butch Walker - The Rise and Fall of Butch Walker and the Let's-Go-Out-Tonites

Joi - Tennessee Slim Is the Bomb

Neil Young - Living With War

Chris Stills - When the Pain Dies Down: Live in Paris

Blowfly - Punk Rock Party

Hank III - Straight To Hell

T.I. - King

Cazwell - Get Into It

Julia Sarr / Patrice Larose - Set Luna

Tom Petty - Highway Companion

Ollabelle - Riverside Battle Songs

Tres Chicas - Bloom, Red and the Ordinary Girl

My Morning Jacket - Okonokos

Gram Parsons - The Complete Reprise Sessions [RIP "Sneaky" Pete Kleinow]

Steffen Basho-Junghans - Late Summer Morning

V/A - Journey Into Paradise ... The Larry Levan Story

Kid Rock - Live Trucker

Charlotte Gainsbourg - 5:55

Joanna Newsom - Ys

STAR TIME AGAIN: EARL GREYHOUND

Even while I am down here on my ashy knees, awaiting my conk-headed valet and screamin' "Maceo-o-o-o!," this dark season of the demise of JB, Ruth Brown and Ahmet Ertegun has yielded one other bright light of rock & roll hope: Big up to Brooklyn's Earl Greyhound and its Soft Targets (Some). Not since the heyday of Jimi Hendrix's Band of Gypsys and Allen Woody-era Gov't Mule has there been a power trio truly great and vainglorious enough to bring the heavy. Gnarls and Hobex aside, Earl Greyhound's the best band in the land.

Starring Matt Whyte (vox/guitar), Kamara Thomas (vox/bass) and Ricc Sheridan (skins), the trio deftly spins references from Led Zeppelin to Big Star and yet never fakes the Funk (nor alienates the Sexy). Soul Brother #1 may be rasping out Gnarls' "Go Go Gadget Gospel" aloft with his newly revamped Amen Corner. Meanwhile, those of us left behind in his eternal Second Line find Earl Greyhound's "S.O.S." most welcome. I got them ole electric blues agin, Mamanne -- the EGs might even make dese ole bones git on up like a sex machine!

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  • On Saturday, Oct. 21, hundreds gathered at Camp North End on Statesville Avenue for Charlotte's first black alternative music festival. We captured some of the bands in action on stage, but mostly we surveyed the grounds as fans, families, vendors and more lounged around the sprawling, colorful Camp North End site. It was a great day of music, food, fun, and sweet, autumn sunshine. (Photos by Mark Kemp)
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