The mighty Meters
Ahhh...back from a long weekend of typical Labor Day festivities, as well as a day spent tending to a sick toddler.
It was also a weekend spent watching the New Orleans disaster continue to unfold in all its unholy glory.
In the last week, we’ve witnessed a horrifically bad response to the disaster by the President (the first speech he gave was a mumbling, stumbling disgrace), continuation of existing problems (flooding, contamination, evacuation), and a whole new set of problems (i.e. relocating evacuees). The bottom line being that this is going to be with us for a long time to come.
What remains to be seen (once the basic needs of the displaced citizens on NOLA and the Gulf Coast are met) is what form a reborn New Orleans will take. No matter what happens, continued support from the government and the private/charity sector will be essential.
On the upside of things, the disaster wrought by Hurricane Katrina has begun to awaken the sleeping giant that is the American press. In the last week I have seen serious questions finally being asked of this administration and its representatives and reluctance on the part of some to accept the programmed BS from Bush and his ilk. There were some notable moments from Aaron Brown and Anderson Cooper on CNN and one especially brilliant response from Keith Olbermann on MSNBC. That it’s entirely possible that this is the kind of thing the press should be doing ALL the time (and not something extraordinary) is beside the point. They’re doing it now.
I was watching on Friday night when Kanye West made the statement that ‘George Bush doesn’t care about black people’. My only complaint would be that the word “black” should be replaced with the word “other”.
I had some other cuts lined up for blogging this week (I’ll get to them...), but I felt that another shot of spicy New Orleans gravy was necessary to keep the vibe alive.
No other (modern) group defines the sound of New Orleans better than the Meters. From their early days as the Neville Sounds backing artists on the Sansu label, to their string of amazing LPs for Josie and Reprise they laid down some of the funkiest sounds to come out of the Crescent City. The Meters took the framework of a combo like Booker T & The MGs, broke it down and rebuilt it on a New Orleans frame. The axis of Neville, Porter, Nocentelli and (most important of all) Modeliste brought the second line funk to a national audience. This is true not only of their own string of top 40 hits, but also their contributions as backing band on numerous local Allen Toussaint productions, including records by Lee Dorsey, Betty Harris, Willie West and sessions backing national acts like Labelle, Robert Palmer and Paul McCartney.
That said, if you don’t own a selection of Meters records (and the 45s are easy peasy to come by, the LPs decidedly less so, but all available as reissues), you simply must drop the mouse, grab your wallet and go post haste to wherever they still sell 45s (uhhhh...OK. pick up the mouse again and hit the internet..).
Anyway...I’ve been holding today’s selection in abeyance because I thought it too dangerous to release upon the blog-o-sphere without a proper warning. To paraphrase the mighty Tenacious D, brace yourselves because the funk held herein is likely to blow your face out (or something to that effect).
Long my favorite Meters track, ‘Cardova’ was never released as a 45, so the only place you can grab it (outside of reissues) is the OG first lp ‘The Meters’. On a warm, starry night, with a few Newcastle Browns under my belt I might even go as far as to posit that ‘Cardova’ is the funkiest record EVER! On a regular day, completely alcohol free, I’d still put it in the top 5.
Opening with a fat (and ever so slightly fuzzy) bass line, soon joined by that snappy Modeliste snare, Nocentelli guitar and Neville organ, ‘Cardova’ is simultaneously relaxed and super, super heavy, with a funk engineered to make your buttocks and feet move independently of the rest of your body. If by the end of this song you aren’t doing the Hip Drop, going all “BOOM-bity BAP BAP UHN BOP A CHICKA” like a goofball, and ratcheting up the volume until the bass is rattling all the bric-a-brac off the top of your speakers, you need to restart the tune and repeat until all described symptoms are apparent.
So solid is the beat, it’s almost as if George Porter and Zigaboo Modeliste were locked into some kind of rhythmic trance and Leon Nocentelli and Art Neville just happened to be strolling by and got sucked in (like a Black Hole, only funkier). There’s a point where the guitar breaks out of the riff and starts soloing and it’s almost jarring because the notes seem to be floating inside a vast space carved out by the rhythm. In a second cousin twice removed way it’s almost psychedelic, in that the tune sucks your head in (along with the rest of your body) and doesn’t want to let go.
Anyway, the tune kicks ass in a most satisfying way.
I just thought that with all the sadness out there (and it was heartbreaking to hear Harry Connick Jr and Wynton Marsalis duet on ‘Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans’, and I’m not being sarcastic either...) I ought to post up some real New Orleans power. Hurricanes can wash away buildings and trees, but they can’t wash away the Meters.
PS As a special bonus groove (since I was MIA on Monday) I’ll add a little Meters via Mister Everything I do Is Funky Lee Dorsey with ‘Yes We Can Pt2’ (from 1970).
‘Help each man be a better man with the kindness that you give.’
That’s the shit right there....
As before, scroll down for Red Cross link.