Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Lee Dorsey - Four Corners Pt1

Mr. Lee Dorsey
When you’re talking about the true giants of New Orleans soul and R&B, the name Lee Dorsey has to be close to the top of the list. From his first 45 in 1958, to his breakthrough with ‘Ya Ya’ in 1960, on to the beginning of his association with Amy records in 1965, Dorsey went from being a body and fender man with a Ray Charles jones to one of the Crescent City’s most solid senders. It’s especially cool to hear Dorsey’s records go from “funky” (with that old school, New Orleans “funk” that is sometimes – but not always – the same thing that funk 45 hounds dig for) to out and out “funk”. There are those that will pinpoint that transition on the Lee Dorsey timeline to the release of ‘Get Out Of My Life Woman’, but I’d suggest that their minds are clouded by the endless covering/sampling of that tune – wherein the opening break is supremely funky – but the song itself wouldn’t really be called funk (by anyone that knows better). Round about 1968, though, things take a turn for the funky, and Dorsey (with Allen Toussaint) starts laying down some serious funk (abetted by the Meters). Ironically, the introduction of the funk vibe to his 45s predates the manifesto/statement of purpose ‘Everything I Do Gohn Be Funky (From Now On)’, as well as stone funky gems like ‘Give It Up’, ‘A Lover Was Born’ and ‘What You Want’. The first real banger, the warning shot across the bow of all challengers was 1968’s ‘Four Corners Pts 1&2’. The tune, a reaction to the various “Corners” dance crazes (see “Four”, “Eight” and of course “Sixteen”, opens with an absolutely batshit drum break (a selling point that has made the 45 popular with beatheads, and as a result the hardest to find item in Dorsey’s discography) and moves quickly into horns, bass and guitar that sound like they were lifted from the tapes of a seminar on how to reproduce Archie Bell and the Drells * “Tighten Up” without actually getting sued by their lawyers (Dorsey even name-checks the tune in 'Four Corners'). It behooves me to note here that Dorsey and Toussaint (who I believe is also singing backup here) were hardly the only suspects “borrowing” elements of ‘Tighten Up” (and of that group hardly the worst) , and were they all to be rounded up it would be a crowded cell indeed. There’re also some groovy “Oooh yeah!’s from the backing vocalists, some greeezy organ helping to move things along. Aside from the fact that this is a powerful, highly danceable 45, it’s worth it if only to hear Dorsey shout –
“Now gimme that shake-a make-a! Shake-a make-a make-a shake-a HULA! Awwright! What’d I Say? Fee Fi Fo Fam! Give some to the guitar man!”
Part two is equally hard hitting. The tune was never released on a US LP, though it did appear on a UK issue EMI ‘Greatest Hits’ as well as being tacked onto the US CD release of the ‘Ride Your Pony/Get Out Of My Life Woman’ album. Also highly recommended are Dorsey’s LP and 45s from his association with the Polydor label. Allen Toussaint was still twiddling the knobs and providing stellar material like ‘Yes We Can’, ‘Who’ll Help Brother Get Further’ and ‘Gator Tail’, and Dorsey was in rare form. I can’t say as much for his ABC album.
* You remember Archie Bell and the Drells, right? They were Houston, Texas and they could dance just as good as they walked...


Blogger Dan Phillips said...

Brother Larry. I am gettin' spooked. I just posted Lee's 1958 "Lottie-Mo" a few hours ago, before I checked your blog. And Hellhounds unintentionally posted a King Floyd shortly after I did one. The ponds either gettin' fished out, or we're gettin' psychic.

Also, you're right about Toussaint singing backup. He did it on many of the records he produced, alone or with others, such as Willie Harper. Great cut. I've never seen the 45 - just have it on CD comps.

6/16/2005 01:19:00 AM  
Blogger Larry Grogan said...

I think it something along the lines of 'great minds think alike'.
The NOLA psychic friends connection.

6/16/2005 12:50:00 PM  
Anonymous ryan said...

on a side note, thank you for clearing that up. i always thought it was "and we can dance as good as we WANT."

6/17/2005 11:29:00 AM  
Blogger Larry Grogan said...

My pleasure!

6/17/2005 11:48:00 AM  

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