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New Orleans Funk 4


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  • Soul Jazz Records began the New Orleans Funk series in 2000. Its first volume, subtitled The Original Sound of Funk 1960-75, established a blueprint for what would follow: it sequenced hits by Crescent City masters -- Professor Longhair, Lee Dorsey, the Meters, Eddie Bo, Ernie K. Doe, Robert Parker, etc) next to rare cuts by foundation acts such as the Gaturs, Mary Jane Hooper, the Explosions, and Marilyn Barbarin), offering the entire scope of the music's gumbo-esque variety.
  • This fourth volume, subtitled Voodoo Fire in New Orleans 1951-1977, metaphorically scrapes the bottom of the pot -- and that's where most of the flavor lies. In a typically excellent historical and musical overview, set compiler S. Baker goes to some lengths in an attempt to connect the dots between the arrival of voodoo in New Orleans in the early 19th century and the music found here. Though it's an engaging and labyrinthine journey, its touchpoints are more tangential than concrete, but it's fascinating all the same. Like its predecessors, the sequence presentation is aesthetic rather than chronological. The set's first two selections -- Eldridge Holmes' "Pop, Popcorn, Children" from 1969, and Gus "The Groove" Lewis' "Let the Groove Move Ya" from 1967 are hard and fast links to the syncopated, break-heavy funk James Brown was exploring at the time. The inclusion of Dave Bartholomew's "The Monkey" (1957) and James Wayne's 1951 recording of the now standard "Junco Partner (Worthless Man)" are presented as early exponents of funky, second line NOLA style. Developing from the city's rhythm & blues explosion during the '40s, their deep, backbone-slipping grooves are excellent inclusions that add dimension to the musical diversity that followed in the next two decades. As on previous volumes, there are fine cuts from NOLA royalty such as Betty Harris, Johnny Adams, Eddie Bo, and Clifton Chenier -- the latter establishing the deep funk roots in Cajun zydeco -- but it's the rare tunes in the mix that make this indispensable. The killer, trance-like, voodoo funk of Chocolate Milk's, "Actions Speak Louder Than Words," from 1975, offers fuzzed-out keyboard bass and bubbling hand percussion. "Y'er Comes the Funky Man" (circa 1971) by Bob French's Storyville Jazz Band (the name and the music update the vibe of the city's designated carnal pleasure district that birthed jazz in the late 19th and early 20th centuries). Its chant-like vocal, swampy tremolo guitar and punchy horn vamp are irresistible. Other excellent rarities on offer include the Barons LTD's "Making It Better" (penned by Wardell Quezergue and Johnny Adams) from 1971, which weds The Temptations' psychedelic soul to the Meters' unrelenting rhythmic attack. Then there's the closer, Zilla Mayes' "All I Want Is You." Penned by Allen Toussaint and issued in 1968, it's a gritty break-laden marriage of Northern and Southern soul with a massive NOLA R&B hook. Like its predecessors, from package to sound to tunes, this fourth volume in the New Orleans Funk series is pure gold. ~ Thom Jurek
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