1.The Meters – Cardova (Instant) 2.Chris Kenner – Fumigate Funky Broadway (Instant) 3. Jimmy Hicks – I’m Mr Big Stuff (Big Deal) 4. The Unemployed – Funky Thing Pt1 5. Skip Easterling –Too Weak To Break The Chains (Instant) 6. Lee Dorsey – When the Bill’s Paid (Polydor) 7.Cyril Neville – Tell me What’s On Your Mind (Josie) 8.Danny White – Natural Soul Brother (SSS Intl) 9. David Batiste & The Gladiators – Funky Soul Pts 1&2 (Instant) 10.Wilbert Harrison – Girls On Parade (Buddah) 11. Chuck Carbo – Take Care of You Homework (Canyon) 12. Allen Toussaint – We The People (Bell) 13. Oliver Morgan – Roll Call (Seven B) 14.Deacon John – You Don’t Know How To Turn me On (Bell) 15. Mary Jane Hooper – Harper Valley PTA (Power) 16. Eddie Bo – Don’t Turn Me Loose (Bo Sound)
Greetings all! Here’s hoping that you all had a good weekend. Things here in the Northeast were spectacular and spectacularly hot (at least for this early in the summer). Today we bring you the fifth installment of Funky16Corners Radio, this time taking a trip back down to the Crescent City, New Orleans, Louisiana for a selection of funk and funky soul. Connoisseurs of the genre will be familiar with some of these burners, but hopefully I’ve included something that’ll be new to everyone, especially some discs that I feel have been under-appreciated. We start things off with a number that resides at the top of many “Best of All Time” funk lists, the Meters mighty ‘Cardova’. By far my favorite number the Meters ever committed to vinyl under their own name – leaving out the many amazing 45s for which they provided anonymous backing – it starts out with George Porter dropping some heavy, heavy bass (so heavy in fact, that when it comes on in the car, I have to restart the tune and crank up the bass boost). As the rest of the gang drop in, Messrs. Neville on the organ, Nocentelli on the guitar and Modeliste snapping the traps, it all comes together into a swampy, hypnotic and undeniably funky mix. The only drag here is that this amazing song never made it out as a 45 (perhaps the tiny brittle confines of a 45 were too fragile to contain such a monster). If you want to spin it, you’re going to have to track down and snare a copy of their first LP (or a reissue thereof).
Chris Kenner is known to all for his early Instant label classics like ‘I Like It Like That’, but you would be wise to see if you can score copies of his late 60’s output for that label. In addition to his Eddie Bo collaborations like ‘All Night Rambler’, he also laid down tasty sides like 1967’s ‘Fumigate Funky Broadway’. Opening with a tasty drum break, Kenner goes off on a wild tear – as he was wont to do – backed by some groovy organ. The lyrics don’t make a whole lot of sense, but really, who cares? The b-side ‘Wind the Clock’, despite the new title, is actually a Part 2-ish continuation.
Jimmy Hicks ‘I’m Mr. Big Stuff’ is of course an ‘answer record’ to Jean Knight’s 1971 ‘Mr. Big Stuff’. One of many outstanding 45s on the Big Deal imprint (along with Anthony Butler & the Invaders, and the Fantoms), ‘I’m Mr. Big Stuff’ takes things at a slightly more relaxed, and funky pace.
The Unemployed made a couple of excellent 45s with Wardell Quezerque. Though they recorded in Mississippi (at Malaco, as many of Quezerque’s productions), they were a NOLA band through and through. ‘Funky Thing’ is a fast moving, featuring group vocals, lots of guitar and solid drumming. Their other Cotillion 45, ‘Funky Rooster’ b/w ‘They Won’t Let Me’ is also excellent.
Though little known outside of New Orleans, Skip Easterling was the town’s greatest “blue-eyed” soul singer. Easterling recorded for a number of New Orleans labels – his ‘Keep The Fire Burning” on ALON is a classic – and his sides for Instant are outstanding. ‘Too Weak To Break the Chains’, from 1971 features some timely psychedelic guitar, a funky, stop-time beat and a smooth vocal by Skip. He recorded five 45s for Instant, one of which ‘I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man’ was a big local hit. Someone ought to get the lead out and compile his recordings, as he – like many other great NOLA singers – is deserving of wide recognition.
Where do you start with Lee Dorsey? The man could do no wrong. He was responsible for a number of hits, including oldies radio fixtures like ‘Ya Ya’, and was one of New Orleans’ finest R&B/soul singers. ‘When the Bill’s Paid’ hails from his 1971 Polydor LP ‘Yes We Can’. If you’ve heard the album, you already know that it’s packed from end to end with amazing tunes like ‘Who’s Gonna Help Brother Get Further’, ‘Tears Tears and More Tears’, ‘Gator Tail’ and the title track (later covered by the Pointer Sisters). ‘When the Bill’s Paid’ is one of the lesser known, but excellent tracks from the LP (it never came out on 45). Like the rest of the LP, it bears the mark of the Meters.
Cyril Neville’s solo debut was the 1970 45 ‘Gossip’ b/w ‘Tell Me What’s On Your Mind’. Also backed by the Meters, and Toussaint-produced it was funky on both sides – though funk 45 diggers are usually after the harder-hitting ‘Gossip’. ‘Tell Me What’s ON Your Mind’ is clearly no slouch in the funk department, with snapping drums, chunky organ and a tight, tight horn section.
Prepare yourself for the pure, unbridled soul power of Danny White’s ‘Natural Soul Brother’. White recorded a number of ballads and soul dancers through the 60’s for labels like Frisco. ‘Natural Soul Brother’ was his sole 45 for SSS Intl, and it is a stone killer. I first heard this tune years ago on a comp, and just about went nuts trying to track down a copy. For a track on a relatively common and well distributed label it proved extremely hard to find. I was foiled more than once when I thought I finally tracked on down – one disappeared en route from the UK – before I finally scored a copy for a single US dollar in an otherwise uninspiring lot on E-Bay. I suspect that after you hear the song, you’ll want one of your own as well.
I underwent a similarly frantic search for David Batiste & the Gladiators ‘Funky Soul Pts 1&2’ on Instant. Not only is this track hard to find, but when you do it is EXPENSIVE. I lucked out and got it for a reduced price, but only because it looked a lot worse than it played. I would rank ‘Funky Soul’ as one of the four or five best funk sides to emerge from New Orleans (and that’s saying a lot). Released in 1971, it was issued later on the Soulin label. I have seen sales listings that infer that the Soulin issue is the first, but looking at the vintage of other releases on that label, I have my doubts. I have included both Parts One and Two here.
The next track is by a non-New Orleans artist, but it was recorded there. ‘Girls on Parade’ hails from Wilbert Harrison’s self-titled 1971 Buddah LP. Produced by Marshall Sehorn, with horn arrangements by Allen Toussaint, the LP is unremarkable, save for the funky ‘Girls On Parade’. Harrison, best known for the classic “Kansas City” and the 1969 ‘Let’s Get Together’ (covered by Canned Heat) wails a series of girls names (and not much else) over the modified Bo Diddley beat.
Chuck Carbo’s ‘Take Care of Your Homework’ was the flip side of his funky, Eddie Bo penned/produced masterpiece ‘Can I Be Your Squeeze’. ‘ Take Care of Your Homework’ never reaches the frantic levels of ‘…Squeeze’ but is still quite funky, with a melodic chorus. Carbo had recorded a number of 45s in the 50’s and 60’s, including several as a member of the Spiders with his brother Chick.
If you follow the doings in this space, you already know that I think very highly of the great Allen Toussaint. The man was responsible for the lions share of great R&B and soul sides to come out of New Orleans in the 60’s as a songwriter, producer and arranger. He worked closely with singers like Eldridge Holmes and Betty Harris, and lesser known (but also excellent) artists like Wallace Johnson. Toussaint also had his own performing career, first as Al Tousan, then as a member of the Stokes and finally under his own name. 1969’s ‘We the People’ was his final single for the Bell label. Moving along with a loping beat, lots of piano and Toussaint’s vocals, ‘We the People’ (which was flipped with a cover of ‘Tequila’) may not be the funkiest thing he ever recorded, but is nonetheless a fine – forgotten – chapter in his solo discography.
Oliver Morgan recorded a bunch of classics, including ‘Who Shot the La La’, and, not surprisingly ‘La La Man’. The latter was one of his three collaborations with Eddie Bo on the Seven B label. The first record the recorded together was ‘Roll Call’, which features some tight James Black drums, backing vocals from Mr. Bo and a wailing lead from Morgan. The b-side, ‘Sure Is Nice’ is a groovy, upbeat soul tune.
Deacon John Moore is best known for his work as a popular New Orleans session guitarist on countless classic 60’s records. His 1971 (or ’72, I’m not 100% sure) 45 ‘You Don’t Know How (To Turn Me On)” is a funky vocal with some excellent guitar (no surprise there). I know this was comped somewhere (but can’t recall where). The flip side is a cover of Jimmy Cliff’s ‘Many Rivers To Cross’.
Eddie Bo produced and wrote for many singers, and many of his best remembered sides were with Mary Jane Hooper. For years, the rumor was that Hooper (real name Sena Fletcher) was the same person as ‘Inez Cheatham’, who recorded the duet ‘Lover and a Friend’ with Bo for Seven B and Capitol. This has been disputed – by no less an authority than Bo himself – but their voices are EERILY similar. ‘Harper Valley PTA’ was released on the local Power label, backed with another issue of ‘That’s How Strong My Love Is’, which had been issued earlier on World Pacific.
Speaking of Eddie Bo, we close this mix out with the b-side of his 1971 Bo-Sound funker ‘Can You Handle It’. ‘Don’t Turn Me Loose’ is a more relaxed, but no less satisfying number, featuring a great horn chart and some nice female backing vocals (not to mention a stellar vocal by Mr. Bo himself).