Funky Funky (Tuff City Side)
"Search The Purchase"
Louisiana Purchase, unreleased 1977, from Funky Funky
New Orleans 5, Funky Delicacies CD, 2005
Search and purchase
I really hadn’t listened closely to the last several Tuff City compilations I bought in New Orleans prior to JazzFest this year. So, these Tuff City Sides features give me the opportunity to start doing so. At first, I picked Funky Funky New Orleans 5 for today, because it has a nice, unreleased Sam & The Soul Machine cut. But, then I got into the three Louisiana Purchase tracks - all unreleased - on it, and quickly decided to share one with you. I admit that this a band I know really very little about. So, if anybody has anything else to add to the information I’ve gathered, feel free to e-mail me or make a comment.
In the lyrics to “Search The Purchase”, Louisiana Purchase gives us a glimpse of what seems to have been a less than successful sojourn to New York City for the band, which started inauspiciously by getting stopped and searched by the law up there. Like their other tracks on the CD, “Bad High” and “Accept What You Expect”, this one is well-recorded; and the arrangement and playing are first rate. It’s the one that’s been stuck on repeat in my head.
All I had come up with for background on Louisiana Purchase* was that they had a rare eponymous LP out on the Basin Street label that goes for fairly big bucks these days, at least one single on Basin Street, and another on Kelli-Arts. I also knew that Charles “Chucky C” Elam, III had been in the group. He’s an impressive vocalist and sax player, a member of Irma Thomas’ band, who has also played on many sessions in New Orleans over the past couple of decades, and now fronts his own band, Chucky C & Cleary Blue. So, not having much else to go on, I asked Cameron Maher, my Tuff City contact, if she had any information to share. She very helpfully found the ¼” tape box and told me the cuts (including another song on the tape not on the CD, “ Hey Savage”) were recorded at Sea-Saint Studio in New Orleans, September 13, 1977, and produced by Sansu. That means Allen Toussaint was probably involved in the project; and it’s why this band's sound reminds me somewhat of the sophisticated funk of Chocolate Milk, who were making records with him during this period. Not having any musicians listed for this session, Ms Maher graciously also gave me the band lineup as it was on the Basin Street LP, Louisiana Purchase, which I include at the end of this piece.
[Update - In the comments to this post, Dwight Richards of Chocolate Milk offered his insights on Louisiana Purchase, which I have moved topside (much appreciated, as always, Dwight):
It is no accident that you compare the sound if this band to my own group, Chocolate Milk. They are in fact all very good friends of ours. They also share many of the same influences. Louisiana Purchase is one of those New Orleans bands who may not have sold a lot of records but definetly added to the musical legacy of New Orleans funk. Their sound on records was probably similar to ours because, like Chocolate Milk, they wanted to appeal to a wider audience than just New Orleans. Also like us, their funky New Orleans roots always shone through no matter what. This band features a pair of brothers, Brennan williams on drums and Warner on sax and keyboards. Warner was also a longtime keyboardist for Irma Thomas. Ronald Ernest (Shamika as i know him ) is the brother of drummer Hermans Ernest. The New Orleans music community of the seventies was very tight knit. I even had a band together with Warner for a couple of years called the Enforcers (a long story!). These guys are a few years older than me, but as I remember, they were originally two groups. The singing group was called Swiss Movement and the band was Lousiana Purchase. Eventually some of the singers left and the remaining members were absorbed into Louisiana Purchase. Many of the members are semi retired (musicians never fully retire). Back to their sound, they featured horns and full orchestration, simlilar to Chocolate Milk.]
This CD compilation is the latest of the numbered Tuff City/Funky Delicacies Funky Funky New Orleans various artists series, featuring rare, mostly small label sides, along with some unreleased material. There have also been several FFNO offshoots focusing on output from specific producers/label owners such as Eddie Bo, Senator Jones and Wardell Quezergue. Because, over the years, the label has managed to get better sourced material such as multi-track or stereo masters, or less stressed vinyl, the sound quality on this CD is good. Of the released recordings featured, many had very limited pressings and ridiculously poor distribution. So such digitized collections are the only hope that many of us will ever have of hearing this music, especially the previously unissued tracks. Yet, my major gripe with these CDs is that only a few come with any informational background notes. Tuff City did begin at least listing the original labels (and sometimes the label numbers) under the song titles. But I really think they should try to offer more information on these artists, labels and songs, when possible, in the manner of the fine packaging and research done by UK compilers such as Jazzman and Ace, for example. I know doing so would make the production costs go up; but, I would pay a few dollars more to get more historical context. More casual listeners might not. Maybe they could do a little market research to find out. And one more thing. What are the chances of re-releasing that Basin Street LP? Just wondering.
You can hear sound samples of the CD tracks at the link above. Again, thanks to Tuff City for letting me bring you this cut and the others in this ongoing feature. Now, here’s that list of the players (I recognize more of the additional musicians than band members) who made the Louisiana Purchase LP:
Arthur Booker (lead, background vocals)
Charles Elam III (Alto sax, lead, background vocals)
Ronald Ernest (Lead guitar)
Atwood Jones (Keyboards)
Terry Manuel (Keyboards, lead, background vocals)
Barry Sailor (Bass)
Donald Whitlow (Lead, Background vocals)
Brennan Williams (drums, keyboards)
Warner Williams (Alto-tenor sax, keyboards)
Herman Ernest (percussion)
Norman Davis (background vocals)
Nick Daniels (Bass)
Sam Henry (Synergy, Moog-synthesizer)
Kevin Lewis (keyboards)
Russel White (trumpet)
* [Update 4/20/2007, the band is still going and has a new CD and website.]