July 03, 2006

Free To Be K-Doe

"A Place Where We Can Be Free" (Allen Toussaint)
Ernie K-Doe, from Ernie K-Doe, Janus, 1970

I hope many of you here in the US are already enjoying a long Fourth of July weekend. Back in my radio days, I used do a yearly special around this time where I featured a bunch of New Orleans tunes having to do with freedom of some sort of the other, or just having “free” in the lyrics. Today’s post from Ernie K-Doe was always one of them.

Written by Allen Toussaint, from the Janus album he produced and arranged for K-Doe around 1970, “A Place Where We Can Be Free” very likely features the playing of most of the Meters, as they were the producer’s main studio unit at the time.
Last year, I featured one of the funkier selections from this LP; but today’s track, if heard alone with no notes to guide you, would probably not suggest that it was a New Orleans record at all, unless you recognized the distinctive voice of K-Doe. It’s a great little production, though. I say “little” because you will note that the instrumental backup mainly consists of guitars, bass, and drums – the only keyboard is the piano doubling the guitar on those descending runs that follow the “go get the one you love” sections. Also, this is the only track on Ernie K-Doe where there are no horns. I’ve listened to this song many times over the years; and I never really noticed that before. The relentless, driving bass, rhythm guitar chops and fairly straight drums really keep this tune moving along; and the glissando second guitar figures (likely Nocentelli overdubbed) fill things out nicely. K-Doe turns in a rich, energetic vocal performance; and all of his work on the album is of consistently high quality.

Oddly enough, prior to a few CDs he made rather late in his life, this is the only album the singer had that wasn’t just a collection of mostly single sides. But, as good as it is, nobody heard the thing. It was not promoted by the label; and not too many copies were issued, as it is a very rare find these days. Although I knew it existed, I had never even seen the LP until I found mine around 1990. Janus did release two singles from it, “Here Come The Girls” (a hands down classic that Soul Jazz has comped) b/w “A Long Way Back Home” [#167] and “Lawdy Mama” b/w “ Talkin’ “Bout This Woman” [#183]. Around the same time as this recording, Toussaint produced a version of today’s feature with Lee Dorsey that was not released until Polydor comped it on the CD Yes We Can…And Then Some. Although the arrangement is very similar, I much prefer K-Doe’s version.

As crazy (and I mean that in a good way) and self-absorbed as Ernie K-Doe could be, if you listen to this record and some of his earlier sides, you’ll find that his boasts about his abilities weren’t the hollow rants of a washed-up one (big) hit wonder. He had the chops; but it seems that Allen Toussaint was the only producer who could draw the great stuff out him. It’s a pity that their reunion on these sessions did not resurrect his career. In any event, although his time in popular music had passed, he somehow created his own mythology that lives on since his passing in his still functioning house of hero-worship, the Mother-In-Law Lounge; and so, he managed to get in the last laugh on the music business, and everybody else, for that matter.


Blogger The Reaper said...

Burn K-Doe Burn!!!

11:26 PM, July 03, 2006  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

Heard dat. Exactly!

11:41 PM, July 03, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Dan,
Dwight here. First of all,let me wish you a happy 4th of July. I truly hope you are enjoying it. I have listened to this track three times and I really can't hear ANYTHING that suggests the meters to me on the rythym track. Now let me say, I could easily be wrong, just because I can't hear their playing , doesn't mean that it can't be them. I am just saying, it doesn't sound like them, even considering Toussaint's production habits. Even though Alen typically micro-arranged each part on many records, much of the Meters' personality would still creep through the records. they were Allen's hardest group to control. additionally, Allen would often assemble other session players for certain sessions. I am just trying to give you my insight. I plan on calling Zig to see if he can remember this track. one thing about this track is oddly interesting. This seems like a distinct attempt on Toussaint's part to sound like early Staxx productions! I want to add one more thing about Ernie Kadoe. He was truly a character without tryingto be one. Like many of the great New Orleans charcters, he was also truly talented! I was blessed to have the oppurtunity to perform behind him on seceral occaisions. Many of these performances were unplanned, as kadoe had no problem jumping on to any stage and taking over! Thinking ofhim reminds me that the best thing about working at toussaint's studio was the regular appearances there of artists like Professor Longhair, Earl King, James Booker,Lee dorsey, and Ernie Dorsey. We`have lost too many of our New Oleans originals. They can never be replaced. sorry for getting so long winded.

7:43 PM, July 04, 2006  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

Not a problem, Dwight. I appreciate all you comments - and I'm right with you here. Doesn't sound like the Meters on this one; and yet, there are two funky tunes on this record, "Fly Away With Me" and "Lawdy Mama", that cetainly sound more like Zig, Geoge and Leo on the job. Please ask Zig - maybe they were on some cuts and not others. This album was maybe recorded in 1969 and released in 1970. Also, note that the unreleased (at the time) Lee Dorsey version of the tune, which was done at or around the same time of his 'Yes We Can' sessions with the Meters, sounds very much like this one. See if Zig remembers doing that version, too. Let us know.
Thanks! And happy 4th to you, man.

9:35 PM, July 04, 2006  
Blogger Larry Grogan said...

Nice one Dan! I've been chasing that K-Doe LP for years (alas, unsuccessfully...)

12:37 PM, July 05, 2006  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

Yeah, Larry I was very lucky to find my copy - in New Orleans no less. I thought it was too expensive at $20.00 back then; but, now. . . .

12:58 PM, July 05, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Dan,
thanks for this track. Really enjoyable, the right thing to get in the right mood for one more game in the (soccer) WorldCup in Germany :-).


7:50 AM, July 08, 2006  

Post a Comment

<< Home