Monday, March 13, 2006

Diamond Joe - The ABC Song

Greetings all. And a happy Monday it is. My convalescence has been for all intents and purposes, completed, and I find myself as far back in the saddle as I’ll ever be. Those that follow my ramblings, here, and earlier at the Funky16Corners web zine know that I have a deep and abiding love for the music of New Orleans that approaches the level of obsession. Deep within that larger area of interest, lie several smaller obsessions, usually with individual artists that I’ve devoted time to collecting their records and what little information I can about their histories. Diamond Joe Maryland is just such an artist. Of the seven 45s that he recorded between 1961 and 1968, three of them are among my all time favorites – in any genre. In that brief period, he worked exclusively with Allen Toussaint, on the Minit, Instant, Sansu and Deesu labels, and as far as I’ve been able to tell made very little noise outside of New Orleans. This is of course a damn shame, as some of his records are of such a high quality as to be considered among the best made in NOLA or anywhere else for that matter) in the 60’s. His last 45 for Minit, 1963’s ‘Help Yourself’ b/w ‘Fair Play’ is an absolutely transcendant thing of beauty that I posted here last year. Suffice to say that it is one of Toussaint’s best early sides and features nuanced and powerful vocals by Diamond Joe. His last of three 45s for Sansu, 1967’s ‘Gossip Gossip’ b/w ‘Doesn’t Matter Anymore’ is one of the two or three finest records ever to appear on the label – and that’s saying a lot – and should have been a much bigger hit (God only knows why it wasn’t). ‘Gossip Gossip’ ranks among Toussaint’s best raw soul tunes, and Diamond Joe’s performance is nothing short of remarkable. It’s one of those records that I’ve played for people and almost universally get the reaction of “Why haven’t I heard this record?”. The following year, Diamond Joe made his last 45, after which he would fade into the background, never to record again. The A-side of that last 45, ‘The ABC Song’ is today’s selection. I find it odd that ‘The ABC Song’ isn’t better known, at least these days when the resurgence in interest regarding New Orleans funk continues unabated. It hasn’t been reissued, and is not well known outside of New Orleans fanatics like myself. This may have something to do with the fact that Diamond Joe is known amongst collectors mainly as a singer of R&B and soul, and that his final 45 came out on the later Deesu label, which was not particularly well distributed, produced no hits and as a result is fairly hard to find. That is not to say that it didn’t bring the heat anyway, as three of Eldridge Holmes best 45s were released on that particular imprint, including the brilliant ‘If I Were a Carpenter’ and Holmes’ own “lost” funk gem, “The Book” (written by Leo Nocentelli, and without doubt a future post in this space). Opening with a horn fanfare and some funky guitar, the band (who I’m pretty sure – despite all suspicions surrounding late period Toussaint funk sessions - are NOT the Meters) sets the groove as Diamond Joe drops in with the first verse. Things are decidedly rough, with a sound not unlike Larry Darnell’s Instant classic ‘Son of a Son of a Slave’. The drums are super hard, and Diamond Joe’s vocals get rougher as the song progresses, especially as he’s joined by the backing vocals. The band rolls along like one of those busted looking, old-timey muscle cars that looks beat but still has twice as much iron under the hood as anything else on the road. I guess if you’re never going to make another record, leaving a killer like this as evidence of your greatness isn’t a bad way to go. Sadly (very), the last I heard Diamond Joe was currently homeless. With the exception of his first 45 ‘Moanin’ & Screamin’ (which was on a UK ‘Minit/Instant’ comp), and most of his Sansu sides (which appear on the Sundazed ‘Get Low Down’ set), the rest of his work has never been reissued. I’ve never even heard his Instant 45 (if you’ve got a copy I’d love to hear from you).


Anonymous bbb said...

hi larry
is it
moanin' & screamin'(part 1&2)
on Instant
you looking for

3/13/2006 03:55:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Grogan said...

No. The Instant 45 is Too Many Pots b/w If I Say Goodbye . I've never even seen a copy.

3/13/2006 04:30:00 PM  
Blogger avocado kid said...

heavy duty!

3/13/2006 04:55:00 PM  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

Glad you're feeling 100% and are back to the Crescent City stash. You are obviously correct that this rhythm section is NOT the Meters. And it's unfortunate that so little is known about the players on some of these pre-Meters sessions. An energetic bunch here, but no A-team. Note the drummer's dropped beat on a pickup about 1:50 in, for example. At least they are full tilt going for it; and they probably didn't get a second take. I don't think Sehorn paid for many of those! Anyway, this is the most energetic Diamond Joe number I've heard, Larry. Thanks for sharing. And, I hope you run across "Too Many Pots". Nobody I know has one. I'd love to hear it, too.

3/14/2006 03:06:00 AM  
Blogger J Epstein said...

Hey! You melted my computer! Dang!


3/14/2006 07:04:00 PM  
Blogger shoanuff said...

hello sir....if this is Diamond Joe,aka...Joseph Maryland, it is a pleasure to find a site with info on his music..My name is Shoan Lodge and he is my father. I've never heard any of his music but do recall if I'm not mistaken that he did have a hit at one time titled "Don't Set Me Back". I do have the hand written words to "It doesn't matter anymore" which he had written to my mother. What a coincidence....A true pleasure to read your site.

4/06/2006 05:36:00 PM  

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