NEW ORLEANS FUNK VOLUME 3.

NEW ORLEANS FUNK VOLUME 3.

From the moment you put on Soul Jazz Records’ recent compilation New Orleans Funk Volume 3, you’re transported to the Big Easy. It’s the Mardi Gras and Bourbon Street is full of tourists desperate to experience the sights and sounds of one of America’s musical capitals. Filling the air, is a soundtrack that includes Dixieland jazz, R&B, funk, Zydeco, Afro Cuban and the brass bands. They’re part and parcel of New Orleans’ rich musical heritage. It’s an irresistible fusion of musical influences and genres. This is the real sound of New Orleans. It’s what the tourists listen to, whilst enjoying beignets, gumbo, jambalaya and po-boys. Just as authentic a representation of New Orleans, is the music on New Orleans Funk Volume 3. 

The music on New Orleans Funk Volume 3 showcases New Orleans’ rich musical heritage. There’s eighteen tracks from fourteen artists. Among them are artists who are regarded as New Orleans’ msuical royalty, including Allen Toussaint, Professor Longhair, Lee Dorsey and Eldridge Holmes. Then there’s contributions from Willie West, Betty Harris, The Explosions, Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Diamond Joe. Quite simply, New Orleans Funk Volume 3 includes a cross section of the music that made New Orleans famous. A tantalizing musical gumbo, picking the ten highlights of New Orleans Funk Volume 3 won’t be easy. Here goes though.

Ever since the 1950s, music has been at the heart of New Orleans’ economy. One artist whose been around since then, is Professor Longhair. He released his first singles back in 1957. Born in 1918, he was a legend of New Orleans music until his death in 1980. That’s still the case. No Wonder. He’s perceived as the inventor of New Orleans R&B. An innovative pianist with his own unique style, that’s apparent on the two tracks he contributes to New Orleans Volume 3. The first is Go To The Mardi Gras. Released as a single in 1959 on the New Orleans’ label Ron, Professor Longhair penned the track with T. Terry. Featuring Dr. John on guitar, it’s a storming example of New Orleans R&B, from the man who invented the genre. Then there’s Professor Longhair’s other contribution, Big Chief (Pt. 2), which was the B-Side to his 1964 single Big Chief (Pt. 1). It was released on Watch Records. A glorious fusion of blues, jazz, R&B and funk, it’s a track with made in New Orleans written all over it. As for the vocal, it’s obvious Professor Longhair has been a huge influence on Dr. John. 

Betty Harris is another artist who has two tracks on New Orleans Funk Volume 3, Trouble With My Lover and  What’d I Do Wrong. Both tracks are from Betty’s only album, 1969s Soul Perfection and were written by Allen Toussaint. That’s quite apt, as that’s the best way to describe Betty’s performances. She makes lyrics come to life, breathing meaning into them. As Trouble With My Lover swings along, her vocal is akin to a cathartic outpouring of emotion, as she articulates her deepest fears. On What Did I Do Wrong, emotively, her voice full of frustration and anger, questions, wonders, What’d I Do Wrong? These two tracks are a tantalizing taste of Betty Harris’ music. Soul Jazz Records plan to release The Best of Betty Harris. Let’s hope it’ll be soon, as she’s one of soul’s best kept secrets.

Soulful and funky describes Tony Owens’ Got A Get My Baby Back Home. It was the B-Side to Tony’s 1970 single, Confessin’ A Feeling, which was released on Cotillion. Featuring a heartfelt, lovesick vocal, it’s part scat, part vamp. As for the arrangement it’s uber funky. A pulsating beat and ever-present wah-wah guitars which are sprayed across the arrangement, are crucial to what is, a soulful, funky hidden gem.

Lee Dorsey is another legend of New Orleans music. Quite rightly, he has two tracks on New Orleans Volume 3, Little Baby and What You Want. Little Baby was released in 1969 on Bell Records, and was produced by Marshall Sehorn and Allen Toussaint.  Best described as a needy, soul-baring outpouring of heartache and hurt, it’s impossible not to feel for his plight and loneliness. The other track, What You Want, was the B-Side to 1970s I Can Hear You Callin.’ Released on Bell Records, it was written and produced by Marshall Sehorn and Allen Toussaint. A fusion of soul and funk, the rhythm section lock into a steady groove, horns blaze and harmonies soar, soulfully as Lee, delivers a strutting vocal. It’s very different to his performance on Little Baby, demonstrating his versatility and ability to make a song his own.

Formed in 1963, The Dixie Cups became one of New Orleans’ best known groups. Featuring sisters Barbara Anne and Rosa Lee Hawkins plus cousin Joan Marie Johnson, they enjoyed a number one single with Chapel Of Love. A year later, they released their sophomore album Riding High. It featured Two-Way-Poc-A-Way where they sing call and response, against a backdrop that pays homage to New Orleans’ rich musical heritage. Afro-Cuban, funk, R&B and soul all melt into one mesmeric, hypnotic and soulful musical stew, which once tasted, will never be forgotten.

Eldridge Holmes is one of just a trio of artists who feature twice on New Orleans Funk Volume 3. His first contribution is a quite beautiful, thoughtful cover of Tim Hardin’s If I Were A Carpenter. Released on Deesu Records in 1970, it was oduced by Marshall Sehorn and Allen Toussaint. Part of the success is down to Eldridge’s vocal and delivery. It also helps he stays true to the original track, which quite simply, is a classic. His other contribution is The Book, written by Leo Neocentelli and produced by Marshall Sehorn and Allen Toussaint. Here, Eldridge doesn’t hold back, unleashing a vocal masterclass. Mixing power, passion and no end of emotion and frustration, you’re left wondering why Eldridge Holmes wasn’t a huge success. 

There’s no way I couldn’t have omitted Dirty Dozen Brass Band. After all, New Orleans is famous for their brass bands. The Dirty Dozen Brass Band don’t disappoint on Do It Fluid. A fusion of funk, soul, R&B and jazz, it’s an irresistible combination. This featured on the Dirty Dozen Brass Band’s 1984 debut album My Feet Can’t Can’t Fail Me Now. With its nod to Little Feat, this was the start of a long and successful career, for one of the Big Easy’s best brass bands.

If you’re looking for funky music, then New Orleans is a good place to start. On Jockey Ride (Parts 1 and 2), The Explosions combine a myriad of genres and instruments. It’s a compelling and eclectic combination. There’s everything from straight-ahead funk to country, jazz, R&B and Afro-Cuban influences. Then there’s country-tinged guitars, blazing horns, a myriad of percussion. Add to that a pulsating, hip swaying rhythm section and the result is an explosive Jockey Ride.

Allen Toussaint is true legend of the New Orleans’ music scene. He’s written, arranged and produced more songs than most musicians have had hot dinners. He released the genre-melting We The People in 1969, which Marshall Sehorn and Allen Toussaint produced. Everything from jazz, blues, R&B, funk, soul and gospel-tinged vocals and harmonies play their part in a track that epitomizes what New Orleans’ music at its best, sounds like.

My final choice from New Orleans Funk Volume 3 is The Rubaiyats’ Omar Khayyam. That’s quite fitting, as it written by a legend of New Orleans music Allen Toussaint. He also produced the track with Marshall Sehorn. Together, they’re responsible for a choppy, funky and soulful slice of slice of R&B. With a sound that’s timeless, it’s hard to believe that this was The Rubaiyats’ only single. At least their musical legacy is one that will forever be part of New Orleans’ rich musical history.

For anyone new to Soul Jazz Records’ New Orleans Funk compilation, then my suggestion is treat yourself to all three volumes. New Orleans Funk Volume 3 picks up where New Orleans Funk Volume 2 left off. The quality remains, with familiar faces, old friends and hidden gems sitting side-by-side. Each of the fourteen artists who feature on New Orleans Funk Volume 3 are part of New Orleans’ rich musical history. Among them are Allen Toussaint, Professor Longhair, Lee Dorsey and Eldridge Holmes. Then there’s contributions from Willie West, Betty Harris, The Explosions, Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Diamond Joe. Their music ranges from Dixieland jazz, R&B, funk, Zydeco, jazz, soul and the brass bands. In many ways, it’s like a walk down Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras. You’re assailed by smells and sound. This is all part of the Big Easy experience. New Orleans Funk Volume 3 is a delicious taste of New Orleans musical heritage.

One of the musical capitals of America, it’s musical heritage goes back to the eighteenth century. Then in the 1950s, music become an important part of New Orleans’ economy. As the sixties dawned, this increased. A whole host of new labels sprung up, including labels who introduced us to some of the artists on New Orleans Funk Volume 3. Since then, music has been intertwined with New Orleans’ musical heritage. After all, who goes to New Orleans and doesn’t head down Bourbon Street? Not many. New Orleans with its diverse, eclectic and rich musical heritage, has a myriad of musical delights awaiting discovery. Many of them can be found on New Orleans Funk Volume 3, which is a perfect introduction to the music of the Big Easy, and the perfect prelude to a walk down Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras. Standout Tracks: Tony Owens Got A Get My Baby Back Home, Eldridge Holmes If I Were A Carpenter, Betty Harris What’d I Do Wrong and Professor Longhair Big Chief (Pt. 2).

NEW ORLEANS FUNK VOLUME 3.

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