Lee Dorsey and Allen Toussaint
“Listen – Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley MP3″
Hey, hey, hey…..readers, speeders, meter feeders a sincere good day to you one and all.
It is, at last, Friday, and the final weekend of the summer is upon us. In true NJ fashion, we expect to be inundated with the “tail-end” of Hurricane Ernesto – a name right out of lucha libre – so despite the fact that summer doesn’t end for almost another month, I expect to spend the weekend curled up in front of the fireplace with a hot toddy, a good book and a pile of funk 45s.
A man’s gotta stay warm, don’tcha know.
Well, I don’t know about the fireplace – there are small children about and we try to keep them from catching fire – and no hot toddy (I think I’m down to like one beer every six months or so) – but I do have the funk 45s, enough to keep myself and a few thousand other people hot and sweaty.
On that note, I’m sad to say that today’s post brings another week of New Orleans goodness to an end. Rest assured there’s a lot more where that came from, but I like to keep things as diverse as possible. It’s like the old saw about the ice cream lover that got a job at an ice cream parlor, and a few months later never wanted to see another scoop as long as he lived. We don’t want anything like that happening here. Next week – I’m still not sure if I’m going to post on Monday – will bring more delicious funk and soul – and there’s tons of stuff stacked up in my record room waiting to be blogged, so no one will go hungry (in the musical sense anyway).
To finish out the week, I figured the time was ripe for something else from Mr. Lee Dorsey. I love me some Lee Dorsey. He was one of New Orleans most dependable hit makers, a great singer and always had a supply of Allen Toussaint material at his disposal, which he put to good use. Dorsey was a versatile performer, capable of rocking R&B, soul, and the occasional ballad (see his duet with Betty Harris, ‘Please Take Care of Our Love’ on Sansu), but he also made a grip of high quality funk 45s in the late 60’s and early 70’s (I may have to whip up a mini-podcast of his funk stuff).
The album that Dorsey recorded in 1970 with Allen Toussaint and the Meters, ‘Yes We Can’ is one of the finest LPs to come out of New Orleans in the last 40 years, filled to the run-off groove with high octane funk and soul (I featured another track ‘Who’s Gonna Help Brother Get Further’ in Monday’s edition of Funky16Corners Radio). The LP isn’t cheap, but fortunately many of the album’s best tracks were released on 45 on Spring and Polydor, and aren’t too hard to get ahold of.
Today’s selection is like many tracks we feature here (perhaps by virtue of my age) a song that I heard first in a cover version. The late Robert Palmer – a fantastic singer who will be forgiven for affronts like the Power Station – hit the studio in 1974, backed by members of the Meters, and recorded two Toussaint compositions. The first was a version of ‘From a Whisper to a Scream’, which Toussaint himself recorded in 1971 for Scepter, and the second, a cover of today’s selection, Lee Dorsey’s ‘Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley’.
Back when I was a kid – in the days of steam engines, buggy whips and the Gold Standard – Palmer’s version of the tune could be heard on the finer FM stations in the tri-state area. It wasn’t until many years later that I realized that the tune had been penned by Toussaint and first recorded by Lee Dorsey. As I said before, the Meters were in the studio when the LP was recorded, and their presence is obvious once the needle hits the wax. Leo Nocentelli comes on with some popping guitar, and Zig Modeliste drops a deceptively conservative stop-time beat that keeps things chugging along in a funky way. In fact, this might be one of those songs that a nit-picking, anorak like myself might place in the gray area that starts with “funky” and proceeds in gradations all the way up to “funk” proper. It’s one of those “I’ll know it when I hear it” deals, and whether or not ‘Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley’ rises to the level of “Funk45” is ultimately irrelevant because in the end it’s a fantastic record with enough grease to keep things moving. I’m not sure I see it as a “dance” record in the truest sense, because the beat comes from a place that’s more “second line” than dance floor, but since the whole affair is one hundred percent (maybe 110%) New Orleans-ian, that is not only a satisfying result, but also wholly expected.
So, download, and dig (in that order)…