Raymond Winnfield – Things Could Be Better

Example

The Sombrero-delic Ernie & the Top Notes

Example

Listen – Raymond Winnfield – Things Could Be Better – MP3″

Greetings all.

I hope all is well.
The tune I bring you today is one of the finest examples of that small but excellent subcategory of downtempo Crescent City funk (alongside tunes like Willie West’s ‘Fairchild’ and the Rhine Oaks ‘Tampin’). If memory serves, the record you hear today’Things Could Be Better’, with vocals by Raymond Winnfield, was not the first version I heard of this tune. That was likely the instrumental (entitled ‘Things Are Better’) by Ernie and the Top Notes. That song, also on the Fordom label*, was the flip side of the NOLA funk classic ‘Dap Walk’ (anthologized by the fine folks at Stones Throw some years back on a compilation with an oddly familiar title).
Although credited to label owner/producer Albion Ford, it would seem that the tune was written by Ernie Vincent**, leader and guitarist of the Top Notes. Winnfield himself was apparently a local car mechanic (and friend of Ford’s), who was brought in to sing on the track.
Driven by Vincent’s guitar riff, ‘Things Could Be Better’ moves along at a soulful, but fairly unremarkable pace. That is, until Winnfield whips out the first of a series of bloodcurdling screams (careful if you’re wearing headphones), which peak at a volume that suggests to me that he may have actually swallowed the microphone. Fortunately, as Raymond loses it the band kicks things up a notch, with the drummer waking up all of a sudden, and the horns come in blazing. I love the way the tune settles back into the slower groove after the break too. ‘Things Could Be Better’ is the very definition of “raw”, and is a great example of a record that could only have been made in New Orleans.
I hope you dig the tune and I’ll be back on Friday.

Peace

Larry

*The Fordom discography is short and sweet, with the Ernie & the Top Notes 45, the one by Winnfield and a deep soul 45 by William McGee. I have seen references to some possible variations (including a possible 80s/90s era single by Ernie and the Top Notes) on these 45s but nothing I could confirm.

**I believe the guitarist’s full name may have been Ernie Vincent Williams (I’ve seen it listed both ways)

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5 Responses to “Raymond Winnfield – Things Could Be Better”

  1. W Says:

    This is a great song. I know it from the Funky Funky New Orleans, Vol. 5 comp. Do you know what the year is? Thanks. W.

  2. funky16corners Says:

    I think it’s 1972

  3. Risser Says:

    According to this site, which is either a comp named after your blog, or your blog is named after the comp, or you both are named after a common source: http://www.stonesthrow.com/funky16/ernie.html
    Also, here’s an interview with Ernie:

    http://www.stonesthrow.com/funky16/ernie-interview.html

  4. funky16corners Says:

    Risser
    The blog is named after the song ‘The Funky 16 Corners’ by the Highlighters. The comp which included that song, issued by Stones Throw came out after the blog started. Common source.
    L

  5. eric Says:

    thanks Larry, this is the best 45 I have heard in a long while…the search begins

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