Got Chocolate Milk
Chocolate Milk, from Milky Way, RCA, 1979
Since I promised you some Chocolate Milk pre-hiatus, I guess I’d better deliver.
I wanted something upbeat today; and “Paradise” breezes on along with a swinging feel that hints at the group’s jazz band beginnings. What I really like most about their music are the horn charts; and this straightforward tune is a good example of the effective use of their brass section to punctuate and push a movin’ groove.
I came to collect Chocolate Milk, a New Orleans based funk ‘n soul outfit with several Top 20 R&B hits back in the day, only within the last five years. Until then, having only ever heard a few cuts, I dismissed their sound as “commercial” and too “disco” for my leanings. Then I got the Razor & Tie greatest hits package, Ice Cold Funk, and somewhat reconsidered, seeking out their first four LPs (Milky Way is the last of those), all produced by Allen Toussaint. And, though I am still not crazy about some of the material, I like the band, the tight arrangements, and the impressive playing enough to keep them in my HOTG archives. I prefer the stuff they did with Toussaint over their later work with Allan Jones of the Bar-Kays out of Memphis; but you might feel differently, so see what you can find and get you some Chocolate Milk.
Several of the CM members also did session work for Toussaint over the years, including bassist David Barard, sax man Amadee Castenell, keyboardist Robert Dabon, and percussionist Kenneth “Afro” Williams. Today, Barard plays in Dr. John’s road band, and Dabon in Mem Shannon’s. Castenell has recorded two solo CDs for Toussaint’s NYNO label, and Williams released a CD on his own. Chocolate Milk re-formed a few years ago and played a great set at Jazzfest in New Orleans. But I haven’t heard anything about them since. New Orleans funk phenomenon, Galactic, has covered several of their tunes in recent years; and at least three CM albums have been reissued on CD.
UPDATE: A Band Member Checks In To Set Me Straight.......
(This great message arrived in the comments to this post.)
Your research on Chocolate Milk is pretty good. But, you did miss a few things. ALL of the members of Chocolate Milk did much session work. The Rythym section can be heard on recordings for, Lee Dorsey, Aaron Neville (second version of Tell It Like It iI, The Greatest Love, Hercules and more),The Mighty Diamonds (from Jamiaca),William Bell(from Memphis)Irma thomas, Allen Toussaint and so many more that I can't even remember. I should know, after all I am the drummer for Chocolate Milk. We were Allen Toussaint's studio band from the mid 70s to late 70s. Along with the Meters, we played on just about everything that toussaint produced. on many songs, it was half of the meters and half of chocolate milk for the rythym section. We backed all of Toussaint's live gigs. many people don't know that many of those funky songs by other artists recorded in toussaint's studio had the rythym section of chocolate milk. Back then,Toussaint didn't credit the names of the backing muscians. we recorded so much that I have forgotten most of the songs I have played on. Aaron Neville had to remind me that I played on the later version of "tell it like it is". In addition to playing drums, I have played many sessions on keyboards for other artists. no disrespect intended.I just wanted you to know that all of the band members are distinguished session players. Oh yeah I wrote on of the songs on my cousin Amadee's 2nd CD. - Dwight Richards
Thanks, Mr. Richards, for your information. I hope you don't mind if I move your comments to the main page, as I am honored to have a group member respond to one of my posts and want more people to see what you said. I would hope that, in the future, I can get more input from artists, engineers, producers, and songwriters on this blog's music features. My "research" sometimes comes off the top of my head, as was the case with the "Paradise" post, since I couldn't find much written about the band in the short time I gave myself. I certainly meant no disrespect either, leaving out mention of the talents and work of other band members. I just picked a few I was more familiar with. The whole reason I do this blog is that I am so impressed with the high quality of New Orleans musicians and their output in general. I can only scratch the surface of the awe-inspiring, deep connections that make up the musical fabric of the Home of the Groove. If you will send me your e-mail address, Dwight, I would like to consult with you on a future Chocolate Milk song post, or maybe some other cut you played on or wrote for another artisit, and let you do a guest commentary. That, sir, would be ultra-hip. Drop in anytime. Keep me real.
And, by the way, I forgot to say on the Jon Cleary post that your cousin, Amadee Castenell, is playing sax.