Lee Gives As Good As He Gets
Mr Dorsey respectfully requests that you
"Give It Up" (Allen Toussaint)
Lee Dorsey, Amy 11057, 1969
I give up
Allen Toussaint was writing all the notes, everything you hear on those songs was written out. Every note! There wasn’t any improvisation there. –Leo Nocentelli, sundazed com.
When we’d go in the studio with Allen for a couple of days, we would be cutting tracks for eight, ten hours every day. There wouldn’t be an artist there. We’d just be cuttin’ tracks. A lot of these songs went to Lee Dorsey. -George Porter, Jr. as quoted by Bill Dahl in the CD notes to The New Lee Dorsey.
When Allen Toussaint hired them as his regular session band in 1968, the Meters started laying down tracks that would be some of Dorsey’s last releases on Amy in 1969. I think there was one more on Bell, also, before Dorsey got a deal with Polydor, and the classic Yes We Can album was done in 1970, again with the Meters playing under Toussaint’s direction.
“Give It Up” was not only on Dorsey’s final single for Amy, where he and Toussaint had their greatest commercial success together, it was the final single ever released by the label, which was going under at the time, taking the record’s chances with it. Be that as it may, I love this song and find it to be a fine example of the way Toussaint worked with the musicians to make his patented clockwork funk arrangements. In the Meters, he found a session team whose proclivities perfectly suited his needs and enabled him to easily get what he wanted in the songs he wrote for Dorsey. Once he put the syncopated parts together and the band set them in motion, all the singer had to do was come in after hours from his body and fender business and work his charms with Toussaint’s words. And another cool tune was born.
This was the period when Nocentelli was cutting a lot of tracks using that faddish electric sitar, which had a limited range and just sounds quaint (to be generous) these days. But everything still works well together on the track: hip horn charts, Porter’s great bass work, Toussaint’s piano and Art’s organ (mixed low) and Zig’s simple sticking on top of a tricked up kick drum. This effective set up continued on the Yes We Can sessions, after which the Meters began concentrating more on their own newfound recording success and worked less on backing sessions as a group.
And, although that LP’s title track charted for Dorsey, it only briefly got up to the middle of the Hot 100; and sales were tepid at best. The Yes We Can album was well-liked by reviewers and other recording artists, though; and many cover versions of Toussaint’s songs from the LP and related singles came out over the next few years by the likes of the Pointer Sisters, Robert Palmer, Little Feat, Three Dog Night, and Van Dyke Parks. But Dorsey’s career went into decline; and he didn’t record again until the Night People LP in 1978, which was his last. He passed away in 1986. One of my favorite New Orleans vocalists since “Ya Ya” first came out, Lee’s on the HOTG December birthday list, too, along with most of the Meters; so, I wanted to get another one in with them before Christmas lagniappe begins in a few days.
P.S. - As Red points out in the comments, dig those background vocals from Toussaint, which I forgot to note last night in my sleep deprived haze. He often contributed to the background vocals for his artists, but these are some of his wildest - those moans always make me laugh.