January 31, 2007

From A Blues Boy, To A Soul Diva, To A Funk Band

If you’re a regular around here, you know that my posting project on Toussaint productions and cover tunes is ongoing. This past month, I’ve featured more than usual, yet fewer than I would have liked. So it goes. Things came up (car wreck, the flu, work...). Here are a few more notables to close out January. Rest assured, there are plenty more of such cuts stacked up around here; and I’ll be featuring them off and on throughout 2007. Hope Mr. Toussaint’s 69th year is a fruitful one.

"Mind Over Matter" (Allen Toussaint)
Richard Newell, King Biscuit Boy, Epic, 1974

This cut comes courtesy of the same Mr. Anonymous who provided me with the Browning Bryant tracks. King Biscuit Boy came out in 1974 and was one of the early album projects Toussaint produced completely at his new Sea-Saint Recording Studio in New Orleans. I think this album is also one of the last times all of the Meters participated as the rhythm section for a Toussaint production on an outside artist. They’re the core band on all tracks, along with Toussaint on piano and Alfred ‘Uganda’ Roberts on conga. The producer also used his regular horn section at the time: Clyde Kerr, Jr., Lester Caliste, Carl Blouin, and Alvin Thomas. Plus there’s a cameo appearance by Dr. John, who added a guitar solo on one track (“Riverboat”).

After Anon so generously sent me some cuts, I was surprised to discover that my wife had this album in some boxes I’d brought home from storage and not yet opened. But, as fate would have it (and fate’s been having a lot lately), when I was ready to play it, my turntable wouldn’t turn on. At All. Sheesh. From the three cuts I have heard, this seems to be a pretty bare bones production, and much the better for it. Canadian blues harpist and singer Richard Newell, a/k/a King Biscuit Boy, didn’t require much to do his thing. So Toussaint and the band keep the grooves fairly straightforward and simple, but still effective. The Meters here are following orders and playing solely as first rate hired hands, rather than bringing any of their own thing to the process. So, it’s not a funk record; but I like Newell’s voice and harmonica blowing, too, and look forward to hearing and featuring more.

[Revised 02/07/07] The only cover of “Mind Over Matter” I could find listed is Three Dog Night’s from 1975, which I’ve never heard. But, our friend, Lou Kash, recalled a Johnny Winter version in the comments. So, I searched for that and found that it appeared on the John Dawson Winter, III album from December, 1974, making King Biscuit Boy’s seemingly still the first recorded version. Also, research wiz and friend Jon from nevilletracks alerted me to a version he found by the Poorboys (UK group) on their 1990s CD, Bayou Bound! on the Italian label, Appaloosa. If you know of any others, please pass them along. I have also heard Toussaint do the song live at Jazzfest shows over the years, and one of those sets is available on CD.

"From A Whisper To A Scream" (Allen Toussaint)
Esther Phillips, title cut, Kudu 18, 1974

Here's another one from my wife's collection (photo is from another LP of the period, though). Of the great covers of Allen Toussaint compositions, Esther Phillips’ take of “From A Whisper To A Scream” ranks high up there. From her first Creed Taylor produced album of the same name, this song has so many high class players on it as to almost jinx the session. Yet, somehow they manage to pull it out! This lush, gutsy, ambitious arrangement by Pee Wee Ellis creates a three dimensional soundscape that Phillips perfectly inhabits. I’ve never heard Toussaint speak of this version; but I can’t help but think he must relish it. His own less frequently heard original appeared on the 1970 Toussaint album. Robert Palmer also took a decent stab at it on Sneakin’ Sally Through The Alley (1974).

"Everything I Do" (Allen Toussaint)
The Gamble Brothers Band, from 10lbs of hum, (independent) 2002

My friends from Memphis (and environs), the Gamble Brother Band, had this and numerous other deftly arranged New Orleans covers in their set list, along with their own groovin’ originals, when they were first starting out around 2001. So, it was no surprise when it showed up on their debut CD, 10lbs of hum. Originally cut by Lee Dorsey with the Meters backing in 1969, the song, as fully titled, “Everything I Do Gonh Be Funky (From Now On)”, has engendered a number of covers, including Lou Donaldson’s acid jazz take, Claudia Lennear album version on Phew! (comped on What It Is), and Tousssaint’s own version on Toussaint. But the GBB make it nochalantly their own, demonstrating that you don’t have to bust a gut to generate da funk. Drummer Chad Gamble knows how to relax the groove but keep it just taut enough to pull you into the snake dance. It’ s a well-lubed performance by all that makes the song lyrics neither a threat nor a promise, but a pure statement of natural fact.


Blogger Nevilletracks Blog said...

As always, many thanks, Dan! Sorry to hear about your accident and illness. Let Mr Anonymous know how much we all appreciate his generosity.) I’ve wanted to hear some of that Browning Bryant LP and the King Biscuit Boy LP (because of their Meters connection) for years. Not sure if you know that the King Biscuit Boy album is available on a Japanese CD. (I don’t own one unfortunately.)

According to AllMusic.com, “Mind Over Matter” was also recorded by a group called Poorboys and was released on their “Bayou Bound” LP in 1996. Audio samples are available at


Jon Tyler

12:04 PM, February 03, 2007  
Blogger Lou Kash said...

I know another version of Mind Over Matter. I just can't recall if it was Johnny Winter or John Mayall but it must have been one of those. I thought I had it on a tape, recorded about 20 or more years ago, but I can't find it.

9:19 AM, February 06, 2007  
Blogger Lou Kash said...

After a quick Google search it turns out that it was Johnny Winter. That's the version I know: http://www.emusic.com/samples/m3u/song/10990690/14850103.m3u

9:23 AM, February 06, 2007  
Blogger J Epstein said...

To add fuel to the fire:

One of my favoite songs is Mind Over Matter by Nolan Strong & The Diablos. Different song entirely. Covered by the Pirates (The Temptations before they got their name straight.)

The Diablos version is on my blog, tubegeek.blogspot.com if anybody wants to check it out. The Pirates version is on the Temptations' Emperors of Soul boxed set.

5:40 PM, February 19, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cute thing!Groove rocks and it will 4rever!Really appreciate, long live! Always search the web for cool music "http://ftp-mp3.info/sitemap.xml is a site where one can compile perfect playlists. A cushy spot for a music addict!

4:38 AM, March 16, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a little inside info on The Poorboys' version of 'Mind over Matter'. We were a late '80s/ early '90s London band & huge fans of all things 'Louisiana', playing swamp rock, N.O. R&B, blues, cajun & zydeco, amongst which were a handful of Allan Toussaint numbers. When we heard King Biscuit Boy's version of MOM we just had to include it onstage. By the time we recorded our second album 'Bayou Bound'it was an obvious track choice. The record came out in 1993 & I was proud to hand a copy over to Mr Toussaint himself in his dressing room backstage at London's Royal Festival Hall about a year later. He was (& is!) a true southern gentleman, finding time to chat at length about his music, even though he'd just got off stage after a long hot concert. A meeting I'll never forget!
Ex Poorboy Mike Thomas
(now fronting UK swing-blues band 'The Cadillac Kings'

7:57 PM, May 29, 2007  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

Hey, Mike, thanks for checking in with that info (guess I can take out that '?' after UK group now) and the story about meeting Toussaint. Very cool.
Good luck with the new venture.

12:00 AM, May 30, 2007  

Post a Comment

<< Home