So this post from the Yellow Dog, and this New Yorker piece on essential jazz albums he was responding to made me realize that my last post promised my 10-best list of New Orleans albums. Yes, that’s been awhile now as I guess teaching took precedence over blogging. Go figure. Anyway, here it is:
10. Dirty Dozen Brass Band. Funeral For a Friend. I love brass band music and generally go toward Mama Digdown’s or the Rebirth over Dirty Dozen, but this album has the heart and soul of a New Orleans second line funeral at its core–it’s funky and downright spiritual at the same time. Recorded after the death of New Orleans street musician Tuba Fats, it’s Soulful and fabulous. (thinking Brass Bands, I’ll digress and throw out a word for New York’s Slavic Soul Party, a brass band mixing New Orleans, Klezmer, Eastern European folk tunes, Latin, and a bit of psychedelia into a truly strange and wonderful music–if you ever have a chance to see them, it’s amazing. For the New Orleans connection, listen to their cover of Lee Dorsey’s “Ya-Ya.” Great fun).
9. Daniel Lanois, Acadie. Lanois is a ubiquitous enigma, producing his own haunting sound into the likes of the Nevilles, Willie Nelson, U2, Peter Gabriel, Bob Dylan, and Emmylou Harris among many others. This album captures his own eerie beauty at its peak.
8. Louis Armstrong. The Complete Hot Fives and Sevens. Need I say any more here?
7. Kid Simmons’ International All Stars. Live at the Louisiana Music Factory. Hmmm, really, I’d put this higher than Louis Armstrong? Well, I suppose it’s sentimental. The LMF is one of my regular music stores–especially if I’m hunting New Orleans music or jazz. Besides, I saw Kid Simmons in the store years back in what really was one of my musical highlights. This album puts you right in the steamy river city.
6. Preservation Hall Jazz Band. In the Sweet Bye & Bye. Another one of my all time favorite bands (oh where are the days when a band like this would actually be the musical guest on Saturday Night Live–gone, gone, gone I suppose). This taps their gospel side really nicely in a haunting collection.
5. Earl King. Come On: The Complete Imperial Recordings. Yes, mr. street parade himself, namesake of this blog. His early, classic material here. Solid R&B.
4. Eddie Bo. Check Out Mr. Popeye. Also a solid R&B sound here, but it’s the fabulous piano work of Eddie that makes this classic. The man call roll the keyboard with the best of ’em–see the next album for his peer, though.
3. James Booker. Junco Partner. Yes, mentioned in my last entry, this is some stunning piano work with Booker’s own inimitable humor and vocals. One of the true characters–out of the many–that this town has produced. From classical to truly funky, he covers the gamut.
2. Dave Bartholomew. The Best Of. Yes, I think the best of is really a cop-out, but in this case it really captures his range. Songwriter, producer, bandleader, Bartholomew helped develop and define the New Orleans sound of the 1950s. He was key in the transition from jump blues and big-band swing to R&B and rock and roll. His music is often known more through other musicians (and his collaboration with Fats Domino was instrumental in shaping a sound) but I think no one does it like Dave. You gotta love “The Monkey Speaks His Mind.”
1. The Wild Tchoupitoulas. The Wild Tchoupitoulas. The first hybrid coming out of the Meters, which really was the first incarnation of the Neville Brothers. This album still has that good, solid New Orleans funk to it without Aaron Neville overtaking things yet. Give it a nice loud listen.
Okay, I know, I know. What the heck do I mean by the best? Well, I suppose it just means the albums that get the most air time in my world (and it’s all about my world isn’t it?) Another month and I might shift the list around. Besides, now I can cheat by including albums by pointing out what a shame it is that my list wasn’t big enough to include them (I mean we are tied to the “top 10” format aren’t we? A list of the top 15? How the heck could I do that?): No Fats Domino? (well, try Rue Bourbon); No Allen Toussaint? (well, this one does seem a crime–try The Complete Toussan Sessions); No Iguanas? (Plastic Silver 9-Volt Heart). OK, the list could go on. This town is really my musical heart.
And of course I haven’t included anything from greater Louisiana, no real cajun or zydeco. And, yes, I’d say that such music is really from out state, but what I love about New Orleans music is the way that influences stream together to make, pardon the cliche, a musical gumbo. Fats Domino? Well, he’s R & B, but he’s also heavily cajun. Daniel Lanois? Well, he’s actually French-Canadian, so if anything he’s tied more to his Cajun roots than New Orleans, but if anyone mixes it all together it’s Lanois. The Nevilles of course have drawn from an incredible range of influences over the years to make their own singular sound. So, perhaps I can cheat even more and add just a few more albums to the mix:
Clifton Chenier. Bogalusa Boogie.
CJ Cenier. The Desperate Kingdom of Love.
Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys. Bon Reve.
Nathan and the Zydeco Cha-chas. Hang it High, Hang it Low.
Beausoleil. La Amour Ou La Folie (although Cajunization is also worth a solid listen, if for no other reason than to hear their mix of surf guitar and cajun fiddle in tunes like “Atchafalaya Pipeline”)
Of course any of the oldies you can get your hands on: Dennis McGee, Canray Fontenot, the Balfa Brothers, Bois Sec Ardoin. A little hard to come by, but it’s all fun.
If I stretch it out just a little more, so I add a little Mississippi too, I’ll thrown in Otha Turner and his Rising Star Fife & Drum Band, Everybody Hollerin’ Goat.
And though I’ve discussed it before, I’ll add an album that really no list of mine is complete without, Bobby Charles’s Stony Plain.
OK, I could just keep going I suppose, but I’ll stop now. Give ’em a listen. Enjoy.