Funky16Corners New Years Funkstravaganza!
Greetings one and all. The end of the year is not here, but it’s near. I’m taking the rest of the week off , so I decided to post up the Funky16Corners year end wrap up today. This way, you can download the goodness, transfer it to the data transportation/delivery device of your choice, and then rock the house on New Years Eve (proving once again to your friends and acquaintances that you are in fact the coolest person they know). It’s been a good year for the blog. Traffic reports have been excellent, and I’ve really appreciated all the kind words from the folks that stop here to check things out. On a personal level, I’ve found blogging to be one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever done on a creative level, in that it keeps me writing (and learning) about music on a regular basis. I can’t say that the posts are all classics, but I certainly try to deliver both cool music and interesting stories whenever I can. On the macro level, this has been as shitty a year as I can remember. Thanks to the most incompetent and dangerous President we’ve ever had, we’re mired in a war half a world away that shows no signs of letting up anytime soon. Almost 2400 coalition soldiers have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan (2172 of them American), with thousands more seriously injured and God only knows how many dead Iraqis. Perhaps there’s some kind of sick karmic turnaround, forcing Bush to relive the war he dodged in the 60’s today (though he seems to be paying a relatively small price). Either way, we’re stuck in Iraq for the long haul, and lots of families will be incomplete (some permanently) when they gather to celebrate the New Year. Those of us that depended on the Democrats to counter the right wing juggernaut have been sorely disappointed by an opposition that seems afraid to oppose, finding them pushed into reactive mode time and time again by the ever more successful demagoguery of an unholy coalition of greed monsters, bible thumpers and gun nuts. The very definition of “patriotism” has been mangled and reformed as it’s complete opposite by those that would have us sacrifice our rights for “security”. We saw New Orleans and the Gulf Coast of Mississippi destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, and then watched as our leaders proved how inadequate they really were in their response. So, it’s been a drag. But that’s why we’re here. I don’t harbor any illusions about the “blogosphere” (man, I hate that word) changing the world in any substantive way, but I do believe wholeheartedly in the healing power of music. Despite that fact that a brief look at most of the manufactured crap that inhabits the Top 40 would suggest otherwise, music is one of the great illustrations of the power of humans to express themselves in a way that moves others (in more ways than almost any other creative art). It can transmit happiness and sadness and everything in-between, make you raise your hands and shout, make you get your ass up out of your chairs and dance. That’s really the motivating force behind what I’m doing here. I’m trying to convey to you how I feel about music (one or two songs at a time) in the hope that you will eventually make that same connection. In a lot of ways it’s the kind of connection that people seem to get from religion - i.e. tapping into something elemental that moves your soul – but without all the messy rules and regulations. The other part of what I’m doing here is to try to keep these records alive. I may be outing myself as a music snob of the first order, but I don’t have much interest in “new” music. It was not always thus. It’s just that the vast majority of new music, major label or independent, seems to me to be infected with a kind of dullness that’s the by-product of post-modernist, ironic detachment – whether it’s intentional or not – that renders the end result unpalatable. Whether this is manifested in deadly, corporate homogeneity, or in self-marginalized trivia that’s too clever for its own good, it’s hard for me to listen to it without wincing. I know that not all music is this way, but there’s just so much of it that I got to the point where I felt besieged, and unwilling to battle a tidal wave of sonic crud, retreated to engage in a bit of sonic triage. It’s up to the readers of this blog (and others like it) to decide if this is just so much nostalgia, or if excavating and presenting old music – that may not have gotten its due – is a worthwhile pursuit. I think it is (obviously), and hope you do too. That said. Let’s get to the music. The first selection in our little year end funkstravaganza is one of the treasured gems from my Eddie Bo (and related) crate, ‘Can I Be Your Squeeze’ by Chuck Carbo. When I tell you that this record is as blow your doors off funky as anything you’re likely to come across in your travels, take me for my word, because when Eddie Bo is involved (in this case as writer/producer), the funk is mighty. Chuck Carbo was a longtime part of the Crescent City music scene as both a solo artist, and as a member (with his brother Chick) of the Spiders, one of the city’s great R&B vocal groups. Carbo already had almost two decades of performing experience under his belt when he dropped into the studio with Mr. Bo, circa 1969. It was there, with Bo, drummer James Black and the rest of Bo’s band that Carbo laid down a recording so hot, that it’s a miracle that the vinyl can hold the sound without melting. The tune opens with the drums running at full speed (the bass drum – played faster with a foot than some people can play with two hands – is a revelation), when Carbo (and I think Mr. Bo himself in the background) drops in with a Tex Avery-worthy wolf howl. OOOOOOOOOOWEEEEEEE! Look what I see! UNHHH! Good Gawd! The super-funky popcorn guitar comes in, followed by the bass, the backing vocals, and then Chuck. The whole thing moves along at a deadly clip, running like some kind of funkadelic buffalo stampede, with Carbo at the front laying out his tale of lust. When it gets to the breakdown, and Chuck’s all Git it! Git it! Git it young sister! Whip it! Whip it! Whip it young sister! ..and the drums are going 100 miles per hour and you realize that this is as tight as it gets, maybe tighter than some of the hottest James Brown joints, and you wonder where’s this record been all my life??? It’s just that good. As far as tracking down a copy, save up your jellybeans kids because it doesn’t come cheap, pulling between $75 and $100 for a decent copy (and the local NOLA pressing on Fireball is even rarer and more jellybeany). It has been reissued a few times, and of course you’ve got it here, so be happy, and dance. Numero two-o on the F16C New Years countdown is another bit of funky New Orleans-ness from the mouth of Mr. Lee Dorsey (and the pen of Allen Toussaint). ‘A Lover Was Born’ features backing by the members of the Meters and Mr. Toussaint himself on piano and backing vocals, as well as one of the funnier lyrics in the Toussaint catalogue. Opening with a Johnny B Good riff once removed, the off-kilter funky Nawlins drums come in followed by Lee spinning his tale of a creole Casanova. Suffice to say that although it’s not one of his better known records, it’s still one of his best. I mean, how can you beat – Girl if I can't love you A creole can’t make gumbo, a drunken man don't stumble A seeing eye dog can’t learn to lead the blind A bee don't deal in honey, the Beatles ain't got no money And watermelons grow on a grapevine Last but not least, I’m including a killer from Mr. Benny Spellman. If you know New Orleans music, you know Spellman as the bass voice on Ernie K Doe’s ‘Mother In Law’, as well as the lead on classics like ‘Lipstick Traces’, ‘I Feel Good’ and the brilliant ‘Fortune Teller’. This cut, ‘Don’t Give Up Love’ is from later in the 60’s. It features a horn line that sounds like it was lifted from Etta James’ ‘Tell Mama’ along with funky bass and drums and a demented sounding saxophone soloing in the background. It’s a much funkier sound than his earlier work, and a rollicking good time. See you in 2006. Happy New Year!