Pass Out The Hatchets Baby!!!
Bo & Fess !!
Greetings! 364 days ago (exactamundo) I (and probably 1,000 other folks) decided to enter the “blogosphere” (how stupid does that word sound now???). As I’ve said here before, time constraints were making it difficult to do full updates on the Funky16Corners webzine, so I decided to try out blogging. It was a way to keep writing about records, in a smaller, bite-sized – some bites being bigger than others – form. In the beginning, I was writing about a wide variety of styles. Early posts included personal favorites like Bob Dorough, Scott Walker and the 13th Floor Elevators. Soon enough, though, the space that my head was in (generally just above my neck) found it’s way back to my first and most undying musical love, soul music. If you were ever a reader of the web zine, or a regular here at the blog, you’ll be familiar with the fact that my taste in “soul” music is fairly wide reaching. Record styles covered here have included blues, R&B, soul and funk, all in one way or another rotating around a similar soulful axis (and time period). Whether or not you agree with my “conception” of soul music – and some folks don’t – I like to think that the sounds that are posted here have always been (and will continue to be) good music, and hopefully something you haven’t heard before. The concept of the MP3 blog is a fairly flexible one. In my little world, the music has always included a generous helping of history (and commentary). This is mainly because that’s just the way my mind works. Whenever I pick up a record, and read the info on the label, I’m always looking for the connections. Of course what matters most (always) is the immediate, visceral impact of the music itself. But while that sinks in, I’m always wondering where the artist came from, and in what context they created their music. Rod Stewart – back in the day before he was a sad, old, naugahyde recycler of trends – once sang ‘Every Picture Tells A Story”, and what applied to pictures, also applies to records. Every single 45 (‘zat redundant?) carries with it some element of the artists history, whether it was a pivotal moment in their particular trajectory, a basic building block of their sound, or even just a small example of a particular label’s or regional scene’s greatness. Even the smallest fragment of musical history is connected to the bigger picture in some way, and it’s those connections that I try to find, and present here. Whether or not I am ultimately successful is up to you, the readers. Over the last year I’ve gotten a lot of great feedback from people – some just a thank you or pat on the back (and that’s always cool), and some including new information on the topic at hand (or corrections, also always welcome). Either way, it reflects in some small way (and this is something that is regularly overstated by fans of the internets) the existence of a community of like minds, all of whom dig great music. That’s the coolest thing of all. In honor of the conclusion of our first year, and the beginning of the second, I’ve decided to post up two of my all-time favorite records, both brilliant two-parters, in their complete form. The first, is actually my favorite record of all time. That position, once help by Them’s ‘Gloria’ (now in the #2 spot) is currently occupied by ‘Pass The Hatchet’ by Roger & The Gypsies. The very first record released on the Seven B label was a collaboration between a group called Earl Stanley & The Stereos and none other than Eddie Bo (though the lore seems to indicate that Bo was brought in after the fact to work his magic). ‘Pass The Hatchet’ was my very first ‘Eddie Bo Jam of the Month’ over at the web zine, and I’d like to reprint what I wrote back in 2001:
“Oooooohhhhhh MAMA!!! This is one of those records that when the needle hits the wax, if you ain’t dancin’ you’re DEAD! While Roger & The Gypsies were a real group (i.e. not a name dropped on an Eddie Bo studio creation) the "singing" here is Eddie, and the production SCREAMS Eddie Bo. Opening with a super-solid bass drum beat - that feels like butts swinging in time, hands clapping and feet stomping - and Eddie’s order to "Pass out the hatchets baby!" this is a party starter of the first order. I cannot over-emphasize the power of the drums on this record. Though the beat is simple (compared to some of the mind-bending beats coming out of N.O.) - nobody….I mean NOBODY, recorded drums like New Orleans producers. They managed to capture a lot of the natural power of live drums on his records without sacrificing any of the clarity. The snares crack, the cymbals sizzle and the kick drum is DEEP. The bass comes in, followed by dual guitar lines. The first keeping a sub-beat (not unlike the multi-layered guitars in the J.B.’s) and the second soloing on top. The whole time Eddie keeps popping up with interjections of ‘Chop It!’, ‘Timber!’ and funky grunts (there is an ‘UNHH!’ on this record that manages to carry in it the weight of ALL recorded funk). The song breaks in the middle (just long enough for the dancers to catch their breath) and restarts: ‘The Bigger they come, the harder the fall! Let me chop it…let me chop it…LET ME CHOP IT!" and the drums begin again with renewed force, followed by the sinister rattle of maraccas. When it stops, it stops without a fade, leaving the dancers with their heads spinning. Powerful stuff.”I hope that goes some distance in explaining why I think it’s such an amazing record, but ultimately, without clicking on the link above and listening to the song, you can never really know. The second record is another certified New Orleans classic, ‘Big Chief Pts 1&2’ by Professor Longhair. I decided to include both parts, because you rarely get to hear Part 2, but also because including it illustrates how the record was really collaboration between Fess and Earl King (who’s work on Watch Records had to remain a secret due to his contract with Motown). That’s Earl singing and whistling on Part Two. One of the highlights of the recent New Orleans benefit at Madison Square Garden, was an exciting rendition of ‘Big Chief’ by Cyril Neville fronting a band led by Allen Toussaint. It was an explosive performance, indicative of the power of the song itself, and it’s position as an anthem of sorts in the Crescent City. It was a thing of beauty. You could almost feel that band lifting New Orleans out of the flood waters and shaking it dry. Anyway...I hope you dig these mighty tunes, and that you’ll stick around for the next year, or two, or until these things get plugged directly into your head via microchip, and then I hope you’ll buy the chip (or borrow your friends...).
Once again, these are BIG files and might take a little time to download...