FUNKIFY YOUR LIFE - SHOW #4 - PLAYLIST
Air dates: Thursday, August 28, 2014, 1:00 PM, and Friday, August 29, 2014, 9:00 PM, on KRVS 88.7 FM Lafayette/Lake Charles, and online at krvs.org. You can hear a podcast of this show and previous shows on the website under “Programs” anytime. Just scroll down to Funkify Your Life and click on the show name to see the dated list.
Sorry for the delay in getting this up. Had an altercation with my office chair at home - and it won. I leaned back and it just kept going, dumping me on the floor. Messed up my back. Holiday weekend good times. Anyway, I’ll survive - just no sudden moves and got to remember that gravity always wins.
Although I didn’t actually mention it on the show this week, the two songs that I started off with remind me in their own ways of Hurricane Katrina, which passed just East of New Orleans on August 29, 2005. The resulting storm surge created levee and floodwall breaches that caused severe flooding and almost completely sank the City That Care Forgot, certainly making a lie of that nickname, forever. I’ve also got some songs Wardell Quezergue produced and arranged back in the 60s and 70s, a side from one of the rare singles made by the recently departed trumpeter, Porgy Jones, plus incredible drumming from a Lafayette native, among other funky grooves.
“Funkify Your Life” (Intro) - The Meters - from the New Directions re-issue CD on Sundazed, 2000..
“Unclean Waters” (K. Harris) - Dirty Dozen Brass Band - from their Mammoth CD, Buck Jump, 1999.
Written and recorded long before the Federal Flood, the song's image of unclean waters presaged the devastating aftermath of Katrina, while the gut-grabbing, rump-bumping groove is a force of nature in and of itself. If you missed this adventurous album the first time, definitely check it out. It's one of their best studio efforts, produced by Jon Medeski, who added his B-3 powers to the party.
“Broke Down the Door/The Treme Song” (John Boutté) - John Boutté - from his independently released CD (funded by the Threadheads), Good Neighbor, 2008.
If you watched the HBO series, Treme, you've heard the re-vamped and re-recorded version of this tune that became the theme song, with John again on vocal. The series was set in early post-Katrina New Orleans as residents of the historic Treme district sought to rebuild and restore their homes, businesses, lives and culture, with an emphasis on the city’s unique and diverse music scene, and featuring plenty of the actual musicians.
From a family of gifted singers, John performs regularly at d.b.a. on Frenchmen Street, but his recorded output has been minimal. So Good Neighbor is your best bet, so far.
“It’s Not What You Say” (M. Adams-A. Savoy-W. Quezergue) - King Floyd - from his Atco LP, Think About It, 1973.
This song and the two following were produced and/or arranged by the late Wardell ‘Big Q’ Quezergue at Malaco Studio in Jackson, MS, between 1970 and 1973, when recording venues in New Orleans were limited. He used the house band there and had them follow his arrangements precisely backing numerous vocalists from New Orleans and beyond. Early on, King Floyd’s “Groove Me” and Jean Knight’s “Mr. Big Stuff” were big hits for Big Q’s team; but, although he made many other worthy records with a steady stream of artists, Malaco’s promotion staff had trouble getting them exposure in the national markets. You can read more background on this period in the second of my ongoing series of posts on Big Q's career.
“Love School” (E. Small-M. Cottrell) - Denise Keeble - from the original BFW single #1101, 1971.
As far as I know, Keeble only had two singles, both recorded with Big Q at Malaco, but issued on small side labels he set up with his business partner, Elijah Walker. For more details of Keeble’s work, see Part 4a of my Big Q posts.
“What Can I Do (When My Thrill Is Gone)” (Hal Atkins, Jr.) - C. L. Blast - from the original United single #224, 1970.
Blast (a/k/a Clarence Lewis, Jr) was a fine Southern soul singer originally from Birmingham, AL. He recorded for a number of labels around the country, including Stax, before hooking up with Quezergue for sessions at Malaco, resulting in three singles that should have gotten more notice, but were on micro-labels with no commercial clout. For more on the story, refer to the Part 4a post linked above.
“Shake Your Tambourine” (B. Marchan) - Bobby Marchan - from the original Cameo single #429, 1966.
A minor hit and one his best but lesser known solo sides, this tune was recorded in Nashville and leased to the national Cameo label. For background on it and Bobby, former lead singer of Huey ‘Piano’ Smith & the Clowns, see my post from back in 2006. He had an interesting and varied career, to say the least. As with most pop dance records, the hope was that the song would inspire a new craze and sell tons of product, but that didn’t materialize.
“Soul Train” (E. King-W.Quezergue) - Curley Moore - from the original Hot Line single #901, 1965.
No, it’s not that “Soul Train” from the 70s TV show that Questlove has all the episodes of. This is an original New Orleans tune with Curley Moore singing up front, who also was formerly in the Clowns. It’s an unusual little dance number, written by Earl King and produced/arranged by Big Q himself. Hot Line was an offshoot of Nola Records; and for some reason both labels issued the single. The song name checks various dances and cities around the country and has an insinuating little groove; but neither record stayed on the commercial rails. I featured "Soul Train" back in 2007, and there is much more discussion about it in that post.
“Do The Sissy” (J. Broussard-C. Simmons) - Charley Simmons & The Royal Imperials - from the original PJ single #107, 1968.
The Sissy was an underground dance in black clubs around the country towards the end of the 1960s and inspired a number of dance records, particularly in New Orleans. Charles ‘Charley’ Simmons was an auto mechanic and singer pulled into the fringes of the music business by his friend and neighbor, Joe Broussard, a talented songwriter. They both would soon be working with Big Q on his production team; but this was one of their early collaborations and Simmons’ first single.
If you’re interested, I did an examination of the Sissy dance record phenomenon in a 2011 post, which I later compressed into an article for OffBeat Magazine in New Orleans; but questions remain about the origin and extent of the dance’s popularity.
“Take Five” (Paul Desmond) - Doug Belote - from his self-released CD, Magazine Street, 2012.
As I said on the show, Belote is a very accomplished drummer in many styles, but especially well-versed in the ways of funk. He lives in New Orleans, but is originally from Lafayette, LA, and studied in New York with master drummer Ricky Sebastian, who hails from Opelousas, LA.
“Take Five” originally was worked-up in 1959 by the Dave Brubeck Quartet, a group that included the song’s composer, saxophonist Paul Desmond. They recorded it on a single that year, but nothing much happened until it was re-issued in 1961 and soon became a radio hit, a rare feat for a modern jazz record, let alone one in 5/4 time. On Doug’s take of the song, he is joined by Lawrence Sieberth on piano, Calvin Turner on bass, and saxophonist Jeff Coffin, who all play brilliantly; but it is Doug’s drumming that transforms the song into a powerful, funk-infused statement of his heavy talent from start to finish. With a one-hour show, I won’t usually play six minute songs (5:55 actually!); but this was well-worth the exception, being flat-out exceptional.
Produced by South Louisiana guitar slinger extraordinaire, Shane Theriot, Magazine Street is a hot sampling of Doug’s many musical strengths and influences.
“Tell Me The Truth” (M. Barbarin) - New Orleans Rhythm Conspiracy - from their self-released CD, Dancin’ Ground, 2007.
I first saw the group live at JazzFest in 2008, then went right over and bought the CD. It has such an impressive lineup of players with long histories in the New Orleans funk and soul scene. On this cut, George Sartin on guitar, Jack Cruz on bass, and Wilbert ‘Junkyard Dog’ Arnold on drums are the pared down rhythm section. Sartin has played with Cyril Neville’s Uptown Allstars, while Cruz and Arnold were longtime members of the Roadmasters, Walter ‘Wolfman’ Washington’s great band. Cruz still plays with Wolfman. Arnold, unfortunately, passed away in December of 2008 after a long illness. Other greats contributed to the CD, like percussionist Uganda Roberts, Ivan Neville sitting in on B-3, and Wolfman himself on guitar. There is a Carnival/Mardi Gras Indian contingent to the band, as well, which makes it great funk album for any season.
Marilyn Barbarin, Arnold’s wife, sings lead here and on two other songs on the CD. As her last name suggests, she is part of a musical family that goes way back into the city’s cultural history; but she is still not all that well-known as a vocalist in or out of the Crescent City, owing to the fact that she never had the opportunity to record extensively or for big labels. She had only four singles released locally between the mid-1960s and the 1980s. None of them did well commercially, but are prized by collectors and go for the big bucks when auctioned. I’ve got a few of those records and will be playing them along the way. For more details on her earlier work, see her page at Sir Shambling’s Deep Soul Heaven.
“Dap, Part 1” (John Berthelot) - Porgy Jones - from the original Great Southern single #106, 1974.
Big band jazz-funk, produced, arranged and written by the late John Berthelot, who started his Great Southern label around 1971 and kept it going for the next 40 years in New Orleans. Many of the more obscure tracks are available on CD/LP compilations released by Tuff City labels over the years.
In 2009,I featured cuts here from all three of Jones’ known singles, plus what background I could dig up on his long career as a trumpeter. Sorry to say, I never got a chance to talk with him. Porgy passed away just last week at the age of 74. I’ll get to those other records soon.
“All Nights, All Right” (W. D. Parks) - The Neville Brothers - from their original Capitol LP, The Neville Brothers, 1978.
The popular band fronted by the four Neville brothers, Aaron, Art, Charles, and Cyril, formed during the dissolution of the Meters in 1977. Art and Cyril, were members of that funky but dysfunctional group, but left after the recording of their final LP, New Directions [see my theme song for the show]. The saga of the Neville Brothers’ early years is a long, involved, but fascinating story that revolves around their association with a group of younger musicians called Blackmale, who became the brothers’ backing band. It’s far too much to get into here, but I did a feature on Blackmale, their leader, Gerald Tillman, the Neville Brothers and other associated groups here last year, if you are interested.
This album was tracked at Studio In the Country, in Bogalusa, LA and produced by the legendary Jack Nitzsche. Besides the brothers, only two members of their live band participated on the sessions. The album wasn’t particularly well-received, despite great playing and singing. The material did not adequately reflect the true funky, soulful nature of the band; and Capitol did not know how to market the record, which did not fit easily into any of the commercial radio format boxes. Written by L.A. session guitarist Dean Parks, this tune is the funkiest of the lot.
“Old Records” (Allen Toussaint) - Irma Thomas - from her original Rounder LP, The Way I Feel, 1988.
As I alluded to in my comments on the show, back in my other lifetime as the DJ/host of a weekly two-hour New Orleans music show show on WEVL in Memphis for 16 years, I played at least one track by Irma every time. After all, she did not earn the title of Soul Queen of New Orleans by accident, during a career that began in the late 1950s and is still going strong. While she recorded some funky songs along the way, her strong suit has always been R&B and soul, and, of course, her roots were in gospel music. Her resolute and enduring spirit can be felt in her rich, expressive voice which every song it touches and righteously represents the high quality of her city’s musical heritage.
Irma made some of her best early recordings doing Toussaint's songs for the Minit label in the early 1960s; and it’s good to hear her gracing one of his later offerings so well. They only get better.