June 22, 2006

Stoked for Solid Gold

"Young Man, Old Man" (Allen Toussaint)
The Stokes, originally Alon 9029, 1966, from Solid Gold, Instant LP 71000, 1969

Way back before I started doing my radio show in Memphis or even remotely thought about it, the Instant LP that contains today’s feature cut was on my want list. I was just beginning to get seriously focused on collecting New Orleans music, rather than accumulating it haphazardly, as I’d been doing for years. Then my friend, Jim, who had way more New Orleans stuff than I did both on vinyl and mix tapes he collected and traded, let me tape the album (this was the olden days, kids). At first, I had wanted the record because “Pass The Hatchet” was on it; but, hearing it was my introduction to several songs by artists I hadn’t heard before: Willie Harper, Raymond Lewis, the Pitter Pats, and the Stokes. That started me seeking out as much as I could find on the labels that Joe Banashak had run in New Orleans: Valiant/Instant, Minit, Alon, Seven B, Bandy, etc. By the time I finally ran across a copy of Solid Gold to buy, I had everything on it in one format or another; but I was glad to get it anyway, since it had been an important touchstone along the way.

Actually, the somewhat misnamed Solid Gold was the first and only long player issued on Instant. Banashak meant it to be a retrospective of some of the successful sides, nationally and/or locally, for his family of labels over the years. Few of the ones on the album actually had gone gold. I’m sure he was also trying to cash in on the name recognition of artists who had become more well known after their stints with him, such as Lee Dorsey and Aaron Neville. By the time this collection was released in 1969, the record business in New Orleans and elsewhere had changed dramatically from what it was in the salad days of the Fifties and early Sixties. Still, Banashak plugged along, releasing singles on his dwindling stable of singers well into the Seventies.

As chief artist and repertoire man for Banashak between 1959 and 1965,
Allen Toussaint had brought about a huge number of records, including numerous hits and timeless sides. Accordingly, virtually every cut on Solid Gold was either produced, arranged or written by Toussaint, except “Pass The Hatchet” and “It Do Me Good”. In the case of “Young Man, Old Man”, originally issued on Alon, a label specifically set up for Toussaint projects, the group credited on the single, the Stokes, were formed in Texas by Toussaint while he was serving his mandatory military hitch at Ft. Hood. They mainly did instrumentals penned by the leader, trying to capture a catchy hit along the lines of “Java”, the earlier Toussaint composition that Al Hirt took up the charts around 1964. Out of the five Alon singles credited to the Stokes, only “Whipped Cream” made much noise; but, when Herb Alpert quickly covered it and got the airplay, their version died. “Young Man, Old Man” is a danceable, unusually arranged record, with its Bo Diddley beat, Toussaint’s semi-classical piano parts, and the solo horns coming in and out among the rhythmic unisons. It’s certainly unlike any of the group’s other instrumentals. I don’t know why Banashak chose that one for the compilation; but I’m glad he did.

The Stokes, who also made a few sides credited as Al Fayard (see
my prior post) or The Young Ones, didn’t continue once Toussaint got out of the service; and he soon left the employ of Banashak, as well, to partner with Marshall Sehorn and make further musical history. While it’s certainly not the greatest number in his vast catalogue, “Young Man, Old Man” is a unique experimental piece from a transitional time in his career. I’m glad Jim let me tape his album so long ago. I’ve gotten much musical mileage out of it.

Track listing for Solid Gold:
All These Things - Art Neville
Lover Of Lovers - Lee Dorsey
Something You Got - Chris Kenner
Pass The Hatchet - Roger and the Gypsies
It Do Me Good - The Pitter Pats
I've Done It Again - Aaron Neville
Young Man, Old Man - The Stokes
Land Of 1000 Dances - Chris Kenner
Lottie Mo - Lee Dorsey
New Kind Of Love - Willie Harper
I'm Gonna Put Some Hurt On You - Raymond Lewis
For Every Boy There's A Girl - Aaron Neville


Blogger Larry Grogan said...

This track was re-used as the musical backing for Benny Spellman's 'Word Game' (the flipside of 'I Feel Good', on ALON and Atlantic)


12:13 PM, June 29, 2006  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

Thanks, Larry, Forgot about that. For those of you who'd like to hear this track with a vocal, check out Benny's on the Collectables CD comp, 'Fortune Teller'. It works fairly well. Note, though, that the backing is just the basic "Young Man, Old Man" track faded sooner with Toussaint's piano runs and most of the solo horns stripped off. There's also an added tamborine.
But it grooves.

5:17 PM, June 29, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looks like a great collector to get, I don't know too much of the earlier work of Art Neville before the Meters.

3:54 AM, June 18, 2007  

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