Monday, August 28, 2006

Operation Heartache : Talkin Bout New Orleans

It was about a year ago today that we all got a really rude awakening about what was happening in New Orleans.New Orleans

As you know, not only did a ferocious storm hit, but a strange tide of neglect as well...
AP photo by Eric Gay
I won't go over the horrific details and finger pointing, the civic idiocy of hundreds of thousands living in a below sea level hole with no plan to get 'em out


Whether you see a simple natural disaster, a rebuilding bureaucracy gone amok, a racist conspiracy or just a giant f' up of biblical proportions...

it's all just part & parcel of a story of two hundred plus year old political piss-ant territorial battles and governments gone awol...


and the "K" word of 2005 is just history now i suppose...

But, here's some classic music from that city that care forgot, where a special kinship between musicians and the mystic muddy water has always existed...

I myself look forward to returning some day, for beignets and spicy crawdads, and creepin' round in clubs & cemetaries on long wicked hot nights that peeter out on old iron balconies.

Sweet Home New Orleans...

Where the booze & humidity never runs dry, and the nocturnal hijinks don't end until the sun climbs over the causeway with the flies and smells in the sewers that seep in & spoil everything...

that is until the sun sets again...

So enjoy some classic New Orleans related tuneage for ya'll, before it all floats away again...

keep yer heads up y'all, especially those in the path of the next potential big 'un...
Click here to visit The New Orleans Musicians Hurricane Relief Fund site.

This track circa done in the early 50's by an old blues master I featured another cut from not so long ago. Joe Liggins recorded numerous sides for Art Rupe's Specialty label, and in 1952, this hit was one of 'em with "Crying Over You" on the flip...

Joe Liggins & The Honeydrippers- Going Back To New Orleans

Few artists represent New Orleans more than the legendary Fats Domino. His smiling face and numerous early rock & roll recordings dappled with his piano work have been part of the crescent city scene for more than half a century. I can think of few sadder moments than fearing he was lost to the flood waters. Eventually we saw news footage of the elder pianist being rescued out of his 9th Ward home by boat...

Fats Domino - Help Me

Of course one of Fats successors is Mac Rebbenack whose unique career has simultaneously helped play a mighty part in keeping the city's musical heritage up front & center. Like Allen Toussaint, he credits those juke join pianists before him, such as Professor Longhair & James Booker, but as Dr. John he took the role to new heights. Here's a famous song , I believe perhaps somehow credited to the Memphis based publisher W.C Handy, that the Doctor returns back down to it's rightful home.

Dr. John - Basin Street Blues

The next track is about New Orleans, but is by blind singer Robert Bradley who was raised at the famous Alabama School for The Blind ( also home of the famed 5 Blind Boys of Alabama). By the latter 90's Bradley was an itinerent street singer in Detroit who was discovered by some indie rock musicians. After listening to him sing , they invited him up to their practice studio, and the rest is history I suppose. I really dig some of the original material that was cut with the Nehra brothers, who were also at one time former backing band of Kid Rock. When I caught them live , their was an obvious tension between the young ockes, and the older blind dude that couldn't help but be noticed. Eventually I noticed Bradley had changed backing bands, and this track is a more recent release on the Kufala label, a New Yera's eve set from Bloomington Indiana. While the new group is more hippie dippie jam band, Bradley's soulful singing can still tug at your heart, especially when just backed by a piano as here.... I can just imagine some old guy on his wrecked front porch in Pass Christian MS, singing this out as the water rises up over his ankles...

Robert Bradley's Blackwater Surprise - New Orleans

Here's a track that helped put New Orleans on the rock & roll map, that was ironically composed in Norfolk VA, and this particular version was recorded in Memphis...go figger.

Frank Guida, the writer is an Italian character from NY, who set up in Norfolk VA and recorded some great beachy keen R&B stuff with Gary US Bonds including his breakthrough "A Quarter To Three"... Other groups that went on to record this fun rowdy track include Paul Revere & The Raiders, and in this case flute player Herbie Mann's outsatnding late sixties instrumental combo that feated guitarists Sonny Sharrock and Larry Coryell and even vibes guy Roy Ayers...

The shortest track on Herbie's 1969 "Memphis Underground" LP, it's a far mellower reading than the raw & rockin' original, but interesting in it's own right. What gives it proper southern grounding is the addition of the real Memphis sound, namely session cats like Bobby Emmons, Reggie Young (guitar); and bassist Tommy Cogbill. These are the guys I mentioned a week or so ago who played on Elvis Memphis sessions, as well as Dusty in Memphis, most of Aretha's best sh*t and numerous other hits of the day. Produced by Tom Dowd, it's a quick & smooth little number I thought ya might dig...

Herbie Mann - New Orleans

Next instrumental track up is New Orleans resident musical genius, and Rock & Roll hall of Famer on one of his many splendored 60's instrumental tunes.

Allen Toussaint - Cast Your Fate To The Wind


Shortly after the Hurricane hit, Toussaint was recruited for some post-Katrina benefits where he hooked up with Elvis Costello. This next track is the title cut from an album of some recordings that were done over the past winter, once order and a modicum of services were restored in the crescent city...

Elvis Costello w/ Allen Toussaint - The River In Reverse


Here's a greasy obviously old scratchy vinyl sourced cut called Go Back Home from the prolofic Mr. Toussaint during his 60's era partnership with Joe Banashak's ALON records. I found it via the Nawlin's centric blog known as http://redkelly.blogspot.com/

Allen Toussaint - Go Back Home



The next cut featured here is Toussaint classic , done most famously by Lee Dorsey & of course Devo did a remarkable job as well in the early 80's. I was first exposed via DEvo's 7", which was included as a bonus disc in their Freedom of Choice LP package.

The version here is from an LA based group on Whiz Records circa 1969/70 called Senor Soul, who might have just disappeared from the radar entirely if they hadn't also evolved into WAR. Ironically, decades later WAR's drummer Harold Brown ended up living in New Orleans and became an official licensed tour guide. He is still playing with the core group of original WAR members as the Lowrider band, since they lost the rights to their own name some years ago in a court case. After being in touch, I lost Harold Brown's email address and have no idea how he fared in the Katrina aftermath, but the Lowrider band are apparently scheduled for a show in Kansas City Mo on Oct 2nd, and leave for a week long blues cruise event to Mexico the next day ...

Senor Soul - Working In A Coal Mine

This track of course leads us to an actual cracklin vinyl lift of a 1966 era Lee Dorsey single featuring Toussaint as primary songwriter, producer and musician...

Lee Dorsey - Operation Heartache

From greasy bywater bars to fancy concert halls, no one can top Toussaint's finds The Meters in the seriously funky dept., this track is from their later Warner Bros era circa 1975...

The Meters - Talkin' Bout New Orleans



Big Al Hirt played for decades in the quarter, and here he teams up with another saxman of no small renown...

Al Hirt - Feuding Pipers (w/ Boots Randolph in The Dueling Banjos of Saxophone)

One of my first live intros to the vivacious & irresistible sounds of modern urban New Orleans was accientally catching this act on New Years Eve 1990-91 in a lounge South of Market in SF... I've caught em several times since, at big outdoor festivals on down to a few times at their weekly stomping grounds of The Mapleleaf Bar...

The Rebirth Brass Band are local legends in N.O.L.A, and this cut captures some of that infectious energy from an album they did for Rounder circa 1991...

Rebirth Brass Band - Do Whatcha Wanna pt. 3

If ya wanna hear how their drummer Derrick managed to survive the aftermath of Katrina, appropriated 5 cars & vans to transport his neighbors, family and other survivors to safety, head over to CityPages.com

No New Orleans musical tour, no matter how brief, could exclude Louis Prima. This legendary figure was born & raised there, evetually operating clubs in town, and running his ponies at the local race tracks. Like Fats Waller, Louis learned a thing or two as a young musician playing gigs after hours in the whore houses of Bienville ( aka Storyville).

A swarthy dark Italian, Prima could pass for light skin colored when he needed too, which came in handy when he wanted to play certain clubs on the "wrong side" of the tracks, or later sell out The Apollo Theater in NYC. He swung for decades, rising & falling in popularity several times, and the cat had 9 show biz lives, always landing on his feet & exceeding expectations. The track here predates his rise as a Vegas entertainer, back before he dismantled his old school orchestra. The song you may recognize as it was re-popularized and is still in print on his Capitol recordings of the later 50's. Here's a version off an old ten inch I have supposedly taken from an early 50's date done for Jimmie Durante's TV show.

Louis Prima - Angelina ( from Jimmy Durante TV show)

One of the most notable moments from Katrina's aftermath occured not in the Gulf area itself, but in New York's Rockefeller Center. It was there that Kanye West, the young, rich college dropout rapper could no longer contain himself, and called out the prez...

Standing alongside a clearly uncomfortable Canadian comedian, West left the script behind & decried the Bush admin's lackluster response to the crisis... here's a remix that surfaced soon after...

Kanye West - He Say Bush Doesn't Care Mix...


Click here to visit The New Orleans Musicians Hurricane Relief Fund site.



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