June 28, 2005

Naughty But Nice


The booklet"One Naughty Flat" (Roy Montrell)
AFO Executives, from New Orleans Heritage Jazz, Opus 43, recorded 1963


Back in the late 1980’s, I got the chance to buy a sealed, four LP box set put out by Harold Battiste in 1976 that contains jazz recordings from 1956 to 1966 by him and other founders or close associates of AFO Records in New Orleans. The groups included are the Ellis Marsalis Quartet (Marsalis, Nat Perilliat, Marvin Smith, and James Black), the Original American Jazz Quintet (Mr. Battiste, Alvin Batiste, Marsalis, William Swanson, and Ed Blackwell), and The AFO Executives (Battiste, Alvin ‘Red’ Tyler, Melvin Lastie, Peter ‘Chuck’ Badie, John Boudreaux, and vocalist, Tami Lynn); as well, other musicians sit in on various cuts. Compiled from the original master tapes and released on his own Opus 43 imprint packaged with a somewhat confusing, but ultimately informative booklet (pictured above), this set reveals the serious jazz chops of these players, many of whom made their living at the time playing R&B in the studio, on the road, and in clubs. Of those noted here, Blackwell, Marsalis, Black and Alvin Batiste went on to more or less full-time jazz careers.

The story of AFO (All For One) Records is too involved to rehash here. You can learn more at the link I’ve got below. But, suffice it to say that the label was established in the early 1960’s in the Crescent City by musicians for musicians in an effort to cut themselves in on some of the real record business money that, as session players, leaders, arrangers, producers or songwriters, they did not get. The aggregation was comprised of some of the premier players in town, headed by Harold Battiste, who was a top local producer and arranger. With the dream realized, some great records were made (you can find the R&B sides on Ace’s Gumbo Stew CD series), including one big hit, “I Know”, by Barbara George. But the non-utopian realities of the record business rose up to snuff the entire enterprise and by 1964 it was over, with many of the principals having relocated to Los Angeles.

Our cut from this project, “One Naughty Flat”, composed by guitarist and AFO co-founder Roy Montrell, is a hip, upbeat little number that is closer to R&B than the more serious jazz of the other groupings. The AFO Executives mixed R&B and jazz on a variety of tunes, using Tami Lynn’s vocal prowess on many to good effect. On this instrumental, drummer John Boudreaux supplies a fine funky second line feel to the tune, while Harold Battiste turns out some tasty solos on alto sax, with Red Tyler taking the tenor break in the middle. Chuck Badie plays the acoustic bass; and Melvin Lastie is on the trumpet/cornet. The title is an inside musician’s joke, referring to the song’s key of F, which only has one of those nicely naughty flats in it.

I’m a big fan of this tune, which appeared orginally on the 1963 AFO Executives LP, Compendium. Mac Rebennack also covered it on organ around 1962 on an AFO siingle (#309); and an alternate take of Mac's track appears on the More Gumbo Stew CD from Ace in the UK.

To learn more about Harold Battiste, many of the musicians, and AFO, visit the
AFO Foundation site. He's got this set still for sale, I think, plus CD compilations, too.

June 24, 2005

SHSSSH !



"Don't Make No Noise" (D. Labostrie)
Chris Kenner, Prigan, 1961

No noise

If you can bear some surface noise, here’s a rare promo single by one of New Orleans’ favorite sons, Chris Kenner. The version I have was released on the Prigan label (owned by Lloyd Price and Harold Logan – hence Pri – gan) in 1961 to capitalize on Kenner’s newfound fame from his hit recording that year of “I Like It Like That” on Valiant/Instant. “Don’t Make No Noise” had been originally recorded in 1959 and issued on the local Pontchartrain label. This re-issue must have been a rush job, as, strangely, it’s flip side, “The Right Kind Of Girl” is not the same B-side as on the Pontchartrain 45; in fact, it’s not even by Chris Kenner! Though uncredited on the record, I’ve learned that Billy LaMont is the vocalist on the other side.* Go figure.

Be all that as it may (the record business in those days was fast and loose), I dig this rockin’ little number. Both John Broven and Jeff Hannusch mention the tune in passing, one calling it “boisterous”, the other “rambunctious”. I think the frenzied drumming here is what grabs you, breaking from stop time into a full-tilt gallop of New Orleans style syncopation that makes a lot of noise and offers edgy support to the rebellious teenage spirit of Dorothy Labostrie’s lyrics. The song mentions the kids doing many dances; but what do you do to a song like this, other than rip up the joint? With its rollicking tenor sax and tight ensemble playing, “Don’t Make No Noise” could have been a contender voiced by the likes of, say, Larry Williams or Little Richard (for whom Labostrie wrote the lyrics to “Tutti Frutti”, and who already had religion by 1959). But Kenner turned out to be a far better songwriter than vocalist. So, living up to the title, neither issue of this record made any noise.

Still, he didn’t do too badly as a recording artist, considering. His earlier (1957) self-penned record for Imperial, produced by Dave Bartholomew, “Sick and Tired”, had good local sales, which were eclipsed by Fats Domino’s cover a year later. “I Like It Like That” was a huge national hit; and his “Something You Got” and “Land Of 1,000 Dances” were also well received. The latter song was covered, of course, by both Cannibal and the Headhunters and Wilson Pickett very successfully. So successfully that Kenner’s version has been all but forgotten. He continued writing and recording into the early 1970’s, making a few good sides; but his profligate lifestyle got the better of his career and his talent.

*Thanks to Bob McGrath of the
R&B Indies for that piece of information and all his fine discographical work (more on that to come).

June 21, 2005

Gulf Coast Soul



"I'm A One Man Woman" (Barbara L. Ozen)
Barbara Lynn, Atlantic, 1971


Hope she's one of yours now, too

This month’s Swamp Side features a cut from Barbara Lynn (Ozen), who grew up on the Gulf Coast in Beaumont, TX, although her people were originally from the Opelousas, LA area. Not only a talented vocalist, Lynn, who is still an active performer, plays guitar left-handed and has written some great songs. Discovered in the early 1960’s by producer Huey Meaux, who got her signed to nationally distributed Jamie Records, Lynn scored a big R&B hit in 1962 with her first single for the label, “You’ll Lose A Good Thing”. Although she put out many other great sides for the label, including her song, “Oh Baby (We Got A Good Thing Goin’)” which the Rolling Stones covered in 1965, none achieved the chart success of the first hit and the label dropped her around 1965. She continued to record on Meaux’s own labels until he got her a deal with Atlantic in 1967. Most of her early sides were recorded in New Orleans, using the fine session players there, and later ones were done in Clinton, MS, Muscle Shoals, AL, and Houston.

When “I’m A One Man Woman” b/w “Nice and Easy” was released on Atlantic, she was close to the end of her run with the label, after having recorded several singles and a album. One of those sides, “Until Then I’ll Suffer”, was a fairly substantial hit in 1971. Our featured track followed it up and also charted fairly well. It was recorded at Meaux’s Sugar Hill Studio (formerly Gold Star) in Houston; but I have no further session information. With its funkified groove from the fine unknown backing band, plus Ms Ozen’s captivating vocal and rhythmic guitar (even though it seems borrowed from Tyrone Davis’ hit, “Can I Change My Mind”), this tune is soulful and danceable. Subsequently, she made one more single for Atlantic and released only a few more records during the 1970’s.

On a side note, Lynn was certainly not the only act either discovered or given a start by Huey Meaux, the self-styled “Crazy Cajun”, a former barber, DJ and music promoter with an ear for talent and a flair for the free-style record business of the times (and who, I believe, is currently incarcerated for one vice or another). Some of the other artists he worked with early in their careers were Joe Barry, Jimmy Donley, Freddie Fender, Sir Douglas Quintet, Roy Head, Jean Knight, B. J. Thomas and Sonny Landreth. A lot of that work was released on his own labels such as Tribe, Eric, Parrot, Jetstream, and Crazy Cajun.

For those, like me, who collect CDs as well as (or instead of) vinyl, back in the 1990’s Bear Family released a two CD set of Barbara Lynn’s Jamie sides; and Ichiban did a CD retrospective of her Atlantic years. In the UK, Edsel comped her Crazy Cajun output on a 1998 CD; and WestSide in 1999 put out the CD, Bluesoul Belles Vol. 2, featuring Tribe and Jetstream recordings by Lynn and Jean Knight. In addition, she released several decent CDs in the 1990’s of her new tunes and re-makes of her older ones. I’ve always had a thing for Barbara Lynn’s music; andI hope you’ll agree that she should be more than just one man’s soul woman.


June 15, 2005

When Lee Met Allen



"Lottie-Mo" (L. Dorsey - R. Richard)
Lee Dorsey, Valiant, c. 1958

No mo'

“Lottie-Mo” b/w “Lover of Love” was one of a few released singles on the New Orleans-based Valiant label before its owners, Joe Banashak and Irving Smith, had to rename it in 1961, due to a dispute with another label of the same name. They re-christened it Instant to go along with Banashak’s Minit label, and kept the saxophone inside the first letter as part of the logo. As Instant, the label lasted over ten more years and issued some of the city’s best sides.

But that’s only part of the back story of this release, which is significant for several reasons besides being a fairly rare record and a good New Orleans tune. It was only
Lee Dorsey's second recording session, the first being 1957’s “Rock Pretty Baby” b/w “Lonely Evening” for the Rex label just a short while prior. Also, the Valiant single was his first opportunity to work with Allen Toussaint, who arranged, played piano on the sessions, and wrote the flip side. Because Toussaint liked Dorsey and his delivery, they would team up later to make numerous hits and great recordings from the mid-1960’s to the late 1970’s.

Dorsey’s co-writer on “Lottie-Mo” was Reynauld Richard, who was a local record producer and had discovered Lee at an auto body shop singing while he worked. Together, they wrote a few tunes; and Richard got the singer into the studio for his first couple of records. “Lottie-Mo” featured Dorsey’s simple, relaxed vocal style over an upbeat, syncopated New Orleans shuffle. Throughout, Toussaint ran funky, Professor Longhair-inspired piano riffs, including an impressive solo. When the record did well locally, ABC- Paramount picked it up; but it didn’t make much noise nationally. It did catch the attention of Marshall Sehorn, who was working for the Fire and Fury labels out of New York; and he alerted owner Bobby Robinson, who convinced Dorsey to sign with him. The resulting first release on Fury, “Ya Ya”, was also the first national hit for the unassuming former boxer and singing body and fender man.

For more detailed information on Lee Dorsey, Allen Toussaint, and Joe Banashak, I suggest you read I Hear You Knockin’ by Jeff Hannusch , and Rhythm & Blues In New Orleans by John Broven. These have long been my main sources for much of the background information I relate. I link to online bios only to offer you a quick overview.

June 12, 2005

New Orleans, Memphis, and Jackson In The Mix



"Can't Give It Up" (K. Floyd - T. Royal)
King Floyd, Chimneyville, 1975

Had to

When “Can’t Give It Up” was recorded around 1975 at the Malaco studio in Jackson, MS, King Floyd was nearing the end of his run on the in-house Chimneyville label; and he had parted ways with producer Elijah Walker, and long-time New Orleans arranger Wardell Quezergue. So, the production work was handled by the Malaco staff, headed by drummer James Stroud, I believe. Just listen to him have his way with the beat on this tune, his hang-time hesitation reinforced by the bass. The dual guitars - one choppy, one clean - weave an effective counterpoint over the sustained electric piano chords, while the Memphis Horns find their own sweet spots to spill their rousing fills. Wisely, the Malaco crew stuck to Quezergue’s deft arranging style and made a sublime rhythmic bed for Floyd and his backing singers to lay their sensuous, soulful vocals onto.

As I pointed out in my
November 9, 2004 piece on King Floyd, many of his best Malaco studio recordings blend elements of Memphis soul with his own New Orleans-bred feel for funk, coinciding geographically with Jackson’s place between the two cities. “Can’t Give It Up” is a good example of his well-developed signature sound. It’s intro seems to quote the opening of the Meters’ “Fire On The Bayou”, before slip-sliding into its own entrancing groove that the Memphis Horns then enhance with their own unmistakable stamp.

I still don’t understand why King Floyd doesn’t get more attention from retro-funk fans, as I also said in that previous post. Maybe his vocals are a little too high and/or smooth for “real” funk (whatever that may be). Or is it that his prime tracks were all recorded at Malaco, using mainly the house musicians there; and the town and the studio are not known as funk bastions. But, listen, those guys could sure put some down on Floyd's creations and collaborations (with co-writer Teddy Royal on this one) and on other occasions, as well. Perhaps their approach was more well thought out than spontaneous, and the presentation more subtle than in yo’ face; but the Malaco crew certainly should get their props for the good grooves they gave, as King Floyd should get his for the inspiration and delivery.

You can find a CD version of this song on the 1994 Malaco/Waldoxy King Floyd compilation, Choice Cuts.



06/15/2005: And. . . as luck would have it, you can find another funky King Floyd song posted at Hellhounds and Holyghosts for a few days.

June 11, 2005

Attention, Eddie Bo Fans

With reference to my May 9, 2005 post on "Garden of Four Trees" by the Explosions, written and produced by Eddie Bo, I had a short thread in the comments about another of the group's rare singles, "Jockey Ride". Larry Grogan started it off by saying that he knew someone who had heard the single. Anyway, I got this comment in recently from Martin Lawrie, who is responsible for the ever-impressive SoulGeneration site, and thought I'd share his news "on top" here for more to see. I am looking forward to this; and thanks so much to Martin for letting me (us) know about it and for putting it all together. Here's what he said,

"i own jockey ride, i am currently putting together an enormous project - eddie bo's full 'known' discography, this will be live on my site in a few weeks along with an interview with eddie regarding j. ride and a label scan." martin lawrie www.soulgeneration.co.uk

June 07, 2005

The Big Easy In The Big Apple



"Wild Honey" (Mac Rebennack - Bobby Charles Guidry)
Dr. John, from City Lights, A&M Horizon, 1978

Gone to kingdom come

“Wild Honey” is like comfort food to me, except that listening to it repeatedly won’t supersize me. It’s one of my favorites by Mac Rebennack, a/k/a Dr. John, that I come back to for the sly, double entendre lyrics and feel good, easy-going funk groove. He wrote it with lyricist Bobby Charles (Robert Charles Guidry), a great songwriter from Southwest Louisiana, who Mac has known since his teenage days working sessions in New Orleans.

City Lights is a New York City record, but with an unmistakable HOTG influence. During the late 1970’s, Dr. John spent much time in New York, doing a lot of writing with esteemed R&B lyricist and composer, Doc Pomus. When offered a recording deal with the A&M Horizon label, Mac took it primarily for the chance to work with noted producer, Tommy LiPuma, who he had met in his California days, and the top notch session players that were lined up, such as drummer Steve Gadd, bassist Will Lee, guitarist Hugh McCracken,, and sax men David Sanborn and Ronnie Cuber. The result of their combined first effort, City Lights presents masterful takes on a mix of Rebennack’s own tunes and collaborations with Pomus, Charles, and Shine Robinson. LiPuma gives the album just the right touch of class, while not overshadowing the good Dr.’s essential, authentic, fonky soul.

A second LiPuma-produced LP, Tango Palace, followed on Horizon; but the label folded shortly thereafter; and, thus, both records have been seldom heard entries in Dr. John’s discography. I consider City Lights to be one of his best and highly recommend it as one to own and enjoy, as well as Tango Palace, to a somewhat lesser extent. With the great production, serious NYC (and a few HOTG) players, and quality tunes, Dr. John was definitely in the right place at the right time for making good music when he made City Lights in the Big Apple.


Here are a couple of more Bobby Charles links:

Best of New Orleans
Japanese Fan Site

June 03, 2005

I have just updated my May 20, 2005 posted review of Make It Funky! with additional information on all the New Orelans drummers who worked on the project. If you read that piece, please look at the revision. I think it puts my one reservation about the film into proper perspective. Thanks.

Toussaint On The Side



"Goin' Down" (Allen Toussaint)
Claudia Lennear. from Phew,Warner Bros, 1973

Gone

Claudia Lennear’s 1973 album, Phew, produced by Ian Samwell, had an interesting collection of songs and players, using a different set of musicians on each side. Side one was a rootsy affair with a band including Ry Cooder on guitar and several members of the Dixie Flyers rhythm section (Jim Dickinson and Tommy McClure). But, it was side two where the HOTG influences came in, as all the songs were Allen Toussaint compositions. In addition, Toussaint was on the sessions playing piano, singing some backup (as heard on this tune), doing the hot horn arrangements, and otherwise providing “musical supervision”, as noted in the credits.

The only other New Orleans name making the date was Harold Battiste, Jr. on alto sax; but the rest of the second side tracking team were some of the best, like Chuck Rainey on bass, Jim Keltner on drums, Spooner Oldham on electric piano, to name but a few. Together with Toussaint, they laid down a spicy, funk backing for Lennear’s vocals on our featured tune. She had been a background singer on projects by Cooder, Leon Russell, Joe Cocker, and Al Kooper, among others, and had a strong voice that could be gritty and convincing; but, it was not all that distinctive. Still, she is heard to good effect on “Goin’ Down”, which Toussiant first recorded in 1972 on his Life, Love and Faith album. It was also covered memorably in 1975 by the Pointer Sisters.

At the time of this record, Toussaint was also a Warner Bros. artist, as were the Meters, who he produced. His talents were appreciated by other label-mates such as Bonnie Raitt and Little Feat, who were covering his tunes; and he was on the verge of a string of production work for many national acts. Yet, although Lennear’s backing musicians, arrangements, and material were top rate, Phew was not successful; and she did not record another album, as far as I know
.