December 21, 2009

Happy Holidays, 2009, Y'all

Hey! Last Minute - Give It What You Can

The song titles of my year-end post, pretty much sum up how I am feeling at the moment. I've picked two Meters tunes from opposite ends of their initial tenure together. There's no fa-la-la-la-la going on. Though I am off work for two weeks, relaxation has not quite set in, as try to get things long put off done in anticipation of visiting family and friends near and far. I'm giving it what I can, hoping it gets better. May you enjoy the holidays to the max. My best wishes for 2010. Join me back here next month for more HOTG explorations. . . .

"Hey! Last Minute" (Nocentelli-Porter-Neville-Modeliste)
The Meters, Josie 1018, 1970
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This wonderfully off-kilter little number was the B-side of the wacky "Chicken Strut", and seems to be a simulation of my nervous system today, when everything has been last minute. 'Zigaboo' Modeliste's remarkable broken-field drumming make the tune a keeper.

This was the Meter's sixth single for Josie as a group and was released just prior to Willie West's "Fairchild", which had their backing and Allen Toussaint's arranging. It's likely the Meters' session went down in Macon, GA, at the new Capricorn studio, although producers Allen Toussaint and Mashall Sehorn also used an Atlanta facility around this time, as the studio situation in New Orleans was at loose ends. In a few years, they would build their own and put it to good use.

"Give It What You Can" (S. Cropper-C. Marsh-J. Tarbutton)
The Meters, from
New Directions, 1977
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From their final LP, "Give It What You Can" was written by Steve Cropper, Carl Marsh, and Jimmy Tarbutton, who worked out of Cropper's Trans Maximus Studios in Memphis in the 1970s. It was located in my old Midtown neighborhood back then; and, earlier, when I was in high school, Jimmy Tarbutton used to hang out at the same record store as I did. Anyway, their song first appeared on an LP Cropper produced for Sam & Dave in 1974, Back At 'Cha, which had HOTG connections I've discussed previously. With its funk/rock elements, the song was an interesting choice for the Meters to cover and they did a good job with it, though it's unlikely you'll ever see them do it on any reunion shows (if there ever are any more).

The Meters made
New Directions while breaking up. It definitely sounded different than the earlier albums Allen Toussaint produced for the band; and that was a new direction, alright. Unfortunately, the band was headed in another: over the cliff. Instead of Toussaint, Warner Brothers gave the production job to another very accomplished record maker, David Rubinson, who cut the tracks out in his home turf of San Francisco and enlisted the Tower of Power horn section for the sessions. If the band could have gotten along, something truly great might have come of this that could have propelled them up to the commercial higher heights. But the internal acrimony did them in soon after the album's release, giving its title and the subject matter of this song an ironic twist. Overall, it was certainly not a bad record, though some think it sounds too over-produced. Judge for yourself.

Singing was Cyril Neville, Art's brother, who had been an on-again-off-again unofficial member of the band as percussionist and occasional vocalist for years by this point, and was finally doing the majority of the leads. After the split, he and his brother joined with their other two talented siblings to form the Neville Brothers in 1978, a band that endures to this day. But, when the Meters re-formed over the past decade to do a few lucrative engagements, Cyril seems not to have been invited.

Since the song's about going up against the negativity and general precarious state of the world (nothing's changed in the last 30 years but the players), it seemed like a good choice as we look toward a new decade. Hope springs eternal that we can figure out how to do the right thing and somehow perform the miraculous feat of quagmire self-extrication on many fronts. Then again, that may be too heavy a message for a groove merely meant to loose some New Year's booty. Oh, well, all you can do is give it what you can and hope for the best, on the dance floor and beyond.


Anonymous Jipes said...

Happy holidays to to you and your family Dan and thanks again for giving us a regular dose of New Orleans funk ! It's greatly appreciated !

9:37 AM, December 23, 2009  

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