March 30, 2005

Good 'n greasy

Those few of you who pass this way will note that I haven't posted here in a long time. That's how it's going. Keeping Home of the Groove up and running is eating all my spare time. So, I will pull the plug on this blog some day. Until then, feel free to look around.

I'm going to try to incorporate some reviews back into HOTG at a later date, so keep checking there for the mp3's chitchat and more. Thanks for stopping by.

February 26, 2005

Walter "Wolfman" Washington & the Roadmasters

Home of the Groove has a tune up by this exemplary outfit. Hearing them, you probably wouldn’t identify their thing with New Orleans at first. They don’t do the linear funk grooves, but have a more complex, cosmopolitan mix of funky soul and a dash of blues with tight arrangements, great horn charts, and good, sometimes jazzy changes. Here’s a brief overview of the group’s album output, most of which is still available, with my recommendations.

After Wolfman recorded his first LP, Leader Of The Pack, for Hep’Me in 1981, he started the Roadmasters. Rounder picked them up in the mid-1980’s; and they made three good records for the label (Wolf Tracks, Out Of The Dark, and Wolf At The Door). Then they did Sada for Pointblank, a few years before Blue Moon Risin’ first came out in Europe (it was reissued in 1999). In 1998, they did one more for Rounder’s Bullseye Blues & Jazz label, Funk Is In The House. They have been without a record deal since and currently have a live CD of a festival gig out (at least I think they put it out – could be a boot). Here are my suggestions:

Best of New Orleans Rhythm & Blues Volume Two: Walter “Wolfman “Washington (Mardi Gras) – This poorly titled CD is a reissue of Washington's first LP, which also had a vinyl re-issue entitled Rainin' In My Life. The only future Roadmaster on it is Wilbert Arnold, Wolfman’s longtime drummer. Sam Henry (of Sam & The Soul Machine) plays organ. It’s a decent album with a couple of fine instrumentals. The Roadmasters redid some of these tunes on later Rounder releases. The extinct Charly label out of the UK also had a CD version of this LP called Get On Up.

Out Of The Dark (Rounder, 1988) – Probably the best of the early Rounder releases and just a great CD. Jon Cleary plays piano throughout. Their funky rendition of “Steal Away” (still my favorite cut) steals the show.

Sada (Pointbank/Virgin, 1991) – It’s out of print; but you can pick it up cheap used. Another fine album that got them nowhere. Such is that bidniz called show.

Blue Moon Risin' (orig. 1995, reissued on Go Jazz, 1999) – A cut from this CD is featured on HOTG. As noted there, this is the alleged final recorded appearance by the JB Horns, as they sit in on almost all tracks. This is a pretty fine CD, but with more blues than the band usually does.

Funk Is In The House (Bullseye Blues & Jazz, 1998) – No doubt, this is their best CD to date, with several hard driving funk instrumental workouts, soulful ballads, and hip r&b in between. Well-recorded by producer Scott Billington, who has brought so much good attention to the work of classic New Orleans artists for Rounder, this is the next best thing to catching them live.

On the Prowl(Rounder, 2000) – A “best of” collection from the group’s first three CDs for the label that doesn’t quite get the actual best. All good, though, if you just want a sampler.

Louisiana Music Factory has some of these available, too. Nothing beats seeing this band live, though; and you can. They gig regularly in the Crescent City and hit the road from time to time. They usually play at Jazzfest; but the Wolfman will be the first to admit that, because they gig so much in those few weeks, his voice can be shot, if you catch him on the last weekend.

February 22, 2005

Bobby Powell

Into My Own Thing - WESTSIDE- I'm featuring a track, "Question", this week on Home of the Groove that appears on this CD. The cover kind of covers it, except for the fact that most of the sides were Whit releases, with just a couple coming out on Jewel. It collects good soulful to funky original tunes and interesting covers from Powell, a truly exemplary soul singer, who also plays piano on some of the tracks, at least. Lots of upbeat, groovin' material here. Bill Dahl's notes are worth reading. My only complaint is that no session players are listed. This CD is out of print but still avaialble at decent prices.

Especially For You - ACE (US) - This is a collection of sides Powell did for Senator Jones' Hep'Me label in the late 1970's in New Orleans. His vocals are impressive; but the material is all covers of slow-paced blues and soul ballads that can be snooze-inducing. The CD has been deleted (along with the label) for years now; but you still see it around (also on vinyl, as I recall). Only for the hard core fan/collector.

The Heart of Southern Soul - Various Artists - Excello

Funky Tales - Various Artists - Excello

These are both fine comps from the Excello vaults that demonstrate the label was not all about the blues. Bobby Powell has one cut on each CD; but for anyone interested in fairly obscure soul and funk from the South from in the late '60's to mid-70's, these are worth having in your collection.

Finally, there was a Charly LP out that I think had Powell's Whit and Jewel sides on it. I totally missed it at the time - never laid eyes on it. There is also the rare Excello LP, Thank You, an LP on Jewel, and two LPs on Hep'Me, I think. You can look for these, as well as for his singles at GEMM or over at MusicStack for starters, or hit the tables.

February 17, 2005

Funky Delicacies

As I may have mentioned one time over at Home of the Groove, I’ve had issues with the way the Tuff City (Funky Delicacies and Night Train labels) people have handled some of their reissues of rare New Orleans r&b and funk. My gripes were mainly with their earlier releases: poor vinyl source material, poor quality transfers to digital, shoddy packaging (like missing CDs or missing tracks), no useful notes on the music, players, labels, songwriters, etc. I must say that lately some of those problems appear to have been lessened. Their more recent compilations are better sourced (usually tape or, at least, good quality vinyl) and produced, although they are still lacking in the documentation department (guys, take a look at what Jazzman is doing – and just DO IT).

That said, without exhaustive (and probably expensive) record diving in the bins or on-line, you would be hard put to come up with many of the obscure sides that this outfit brings to light. So, if you want to hear what else was going on in New Orleans from the late 1950’s through the 1970’s besides what Allen Toussaint was producing, the Night Train and Funky Delicacies New Orleans CDs are vital. Under better circumstances, many of these artists could have been contenders.

I’m going to throw some recommended titles and a few comments at you just from the Funky Delicacies pile. An * means the audio source quality is fair to poor. Otherwise, the audio is OK.

Po’k Bones & Rice – Sam & The Soul Machine - As featured this week on HOTG.

The Hook & Sling– Eddie Bo and the Soul Finders + Eddie Bo’s Funky Funky New Orleans – Various Artists - Lots of obscure, quirky funk by the turbaned one and his cohorts, released mostly on his own labels in the early 1970’s.

Wasted* – The Gaturs – Willie Tee’s c.1970 funk band that went nowhere on its own but ended up backing the Wild Magnolias on record a few years later, making funk history.

Society Don’t Let Us Down* - The Barons – I love the Barons, crappy sounding audio, strange arrangements, bum notes and all. Mainly Wardell Quzergue and Ed Frank productions, these sessions were done on the cheap (and so was the CD!) and sound it. Their later stuff was crap; but many of their ‘60’s releases had the flava despite the flaws.

Wardell Quezergue’s Funky Funky New Orleans + Sixty Smokin’ Soul Senders* – Various Artists – “Funky Funky” is the better of the two, focusing on the late 1960’s to early 1970’s with fairly good sound. “Soul Senders” is a two CD comp, for serious geeks only, that could have been outrageous had more of the sides been better sourced. If nothing else, this collection gives a revealing glimpse into the large amount of pop r&b production work Quezergue was doing under the radar in the 1960’s. No hits here; but some very good misses.

Funk Funky New Orleans* + #2* + #3 (with #4 on the way) – Various Artists – A three CD series (so far) offering a mixed bag of obscurities. Audio quality on #3 is the best; but many tracks on the others rise above the low-fi muck to grab you.

Most of the above and more are available at and at Louisiana Music Factory, hey, Tuff City sells ‘em online, too, or buy them at a local bricks and mortar establishment for an interesting change of pace encounter with a few other retrograde human beings. In particular, if you are ever in New Orleans, the Louisiana Music Factory’s two-story Decatur Street shop in the French Quarter (across from the House of Blues) is a great place to go for CDs, vinyl, DVDs, books, etc.

You will probably see me blogging further selections from these comps at HOTG, since nobody else seems to be doing it. If you have any of these CDs, or get any, let me know what you think.

February 15, 2005

Lookin' for Love

Here are some compilations worth knowing about containing “Love Lots Of Lovin’” (featured this week on Home of the Groove):

In Print

Ride Your Pony– Lee Dorsey (Sundazed). In 2000, Sudazed issued two CDs (the other is The New Lee Dorsey) providing the first comprehensive domestic reissue of Lee Dorsey’s original Amy recordings, all produced by Allen Toussaint between 1965 and 1970. Most of Dorsey’s major chart successes (“Working In The Coal Mine”, “Ride Your Pony”, Get Out My Life Woman”, etc) came during this period. I highly recommend both CDs to fans of Lee Dorsey, Allen Toussaint (he plays keyboards and sings backup on most of the tunes), or New Orleans r&b in general.

New Orleans Funk (Soul Jazz) – Also from 2000, this is a great import double CD comp, containing some real obscurities. The accompanying booklet is fairly informative; but it doesn’t cover every track on the discs. While it’s a rather random assortment of funky stuff from 1960 to 1975, this is definitely worth having. And for more Big Greasy funk and soul, Soul Jazz has another quality comp, Saturday Night Fish Fry, available.

Out of Print

Wheelin' and Dealin' The Definitive Collection – Lee Dorsey (Arista) This single CD collection of selected Amy sides plus two of his Fury hits from the early 1960’s came out in the late 1990’s and didn’t last long. But you can occasionally find it used. If it’s cheap, buy it. Otherwise, try one of the Sundazed CDs.

Soul Perfection Plus – Betty Harris (WESTSIDE). This 1998 import collection has become really scarce since WESTSIDE went away. It contains Harris’ complete Jubilee, Sansu and SSS International masters, spanning 1963 – 1969, and so is a must for her fans. If you find one for less than $30.00 US, buy it! Or hope that it’s re-issued.
* * * * *
In print CDs can also be found at the Louisiana Music Factory.You can also look for a copy of the original 45 at GEMM. I’ve seen a few listed lately.

February 10, 2005

New Orleans Soul Queen and Birthday Girl

Man, it's been tough getting back to the blogging after Mardi Gras. But, I've got two tracks up over at HOTG that you can find on Sweet Soul Queen Of New Orleans: The Irma Thomas Collection pictured above. It's one of the better comps of her Minit and Imperial sinlges output.
Other similar ones that may be harder (and more expensive) to find are the Kent (UK) import, Time Is On My Side, and the out of print EMI CD with almost the same title, TIme Is On My Side: The Best of Irma Thomas. These are currently
available at or the Louisiana Music Factory.

Something Good: The Muscle Shoals Sessions was a great collection of Irma's mostly unreleased session work for Chess recorded at Fame Studio in Muscle Shoals in the late 1960's with the fine house band there. The CD was on Chess/MCA, but is long out of print and ridiculously expensive online, it appears. Seek it out where previously owned music software is sold. Maybe they won't know how rare it is.

Starting in the mid-1980's, Irma began a long-lasting relationship with Rounder Records, which was actively recording classic New Orleans artists then and re-starting numerous careers that way, bless 'em (especially producer Scott Billington). None of her work with Rounder is bad. But I'll suggest some titles for starters that also may be
available at or the Louisiana Music Factory:

If You Want It Come and Get It - a single CD retrospective compilation of her Rounder work (it must have been hard to choose) that gives a taste from most of her albums.

The Way I Feel - This is probably my favorite Rounder album by Irma, followed closely by the one that came right before it, The New Rules.

Live: Simply The Best - Recorded in San Francisco at Slim's, this is not as good as it should have been. She takes requests; and the band can't quite pull some of them off. The newer cover songs don't do much for me. But Irma's singing saves the day.

I'll be posting some more Irma audio at HOTG soon. So check back.

February 02, 2005

Anticipating April (updated)

Once Mardi Gras is over, the outdoor festivals are on their way. April is a BIG month for Louisiana music and cultural celebration with two great events in New Orleans and another in Lafayette. If you're a fan of any one or all of them, you've probably already checked out the tentative announcements of the music coming to the French Quarter Festival, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, and Festival International. If you're new to this drill, here are links to the websites for more details:

French Quarter Festival
April 8-10, 2005. This remarkable festival, featuring a variety of primarily New Orleans and regional talent performing on 15 stages around the French Quarter area and along the riverfront, also has great food for sale from top notch local eateries, and free admission. Many locals prefer the FQF to Jazzfest. It's a lot less crowded, for the most part; and the price is right.

Festival International de Louisiane
April 20-24, 2005. Remarkably, this too is a free festival and is held throughout the downtown area of Lafayette, LA. Established to promote and celebrate the French cultural heritage of the region (Acadiana) ,which includes French, African, Caribbean and Hispanic influences, the festival has gained acclaim for featuring numerous world music artists from those areas of influence as well as many Louisiana performers. It's a laid back, down home, friendly event that conveys its cultural significance with the pervading Louisiana party atmosphere. In addition to what the festival provides, the local clubs all book good music that keeps things jumpin' late into the night.

Ponderosa Stomp (Fourth Annual)
April 26 & 27, 2005. Put on as if my magic by the Mystic Knights of the Mau Mau, this is a mini-fest of classic r&b and rock 'n roll put on at New Orleans' best multipurpose venue, the world famous Rock 'n' Bowl, and featuring original artists of the genres performing their music backed by various hip musicians, many of whom are legendary sidemen. Taking place during the week between Jazzfest weekends, this is the kind music the Jazzfest used to feature more of. Not all of the performers are New Orleans-related. I came down for one of the earlier Stomps and walked in on a load of Memphis-related acts: Billy Lee Riley, Scotty Moore, et al. Anyway, their anticipated schedule (always subject to change) tells the story. Betty Harris may be there this year! And Plas Johnson! And Earl Palmer! These shows start early and run most of the night. People get lost in there between the music, beer, food, bowling and vibe. Thanks to The Reaper for pointing out that I forgot to list this. And, yes, it's worth the bucks.

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
April 22-May 1, 2005. The mother of all festivals (well, almost), this world-class production has been in existence since 1970. Starting as a modest local music festival and heritage fair held in a park, Jazzfest has grown into an international event located at a large inner city horse track that can, in a big year, easily have over half a million total attendees. Post 9/11, attendance has been down, but that should not last. There are lots of local and regional acts, plus national and international performers playing on the multiple stages and tents set up on the grounds along with food booths offering well-selected area cuisine, and artists and crafts-persons displaying and selling their creations.

Jazzfest is so popular, if you haven't been to one odds are you know someone who has. I'd bet the majority of the huge crowds there are non-locals. Going to any of these festivals is a great way to catch a large amount of quality live music in one place and get a taste of the local culture. If you don't like multitudes of people around you, try one or both of the smaller, less demanding festivals; but come on down and get greasy.

January 31, 2005

Sounds of the Season

Carnival Past and Present

With Carnival in full swing and my Mardi Gras countdown in progress over at Home of the Groove, here’s a list of some related music that should be enjoyable all year. After all, when Ash Wednesday dawns, it’s only 364 more days until Mardi Gras! Yeah, you rite.

Mardi Gras In New Orleans (Mardi Gras Records)
One of the first Mardi Gras music compilations, originally on LP. And I’d still recommend it, with cuts by Professor Longhair (with Earl King), Earl himself, the Wild Magnolias and other classics of the genre. A good starting sampler.

Mardi Gras Essentials (Hip-O Records)
This CD shares some of the same cuts as above but has others worth having from the Meters, Neville Brothers, Rebirth Brass Band, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, and more. If you are new to this music or don’t have much of it, these collections and your intoxicant of choice should get you in the mood to wear wild costumes and grab some…beads.

Live: Mardi Gras in Montreux, Dirty Dozen Brass Band (Rounder Records)
This is a party record with the band as it was in 1985, back when Kirk Joseph was still pumping some incredible sousaphone for them. As I’ve said on HOTG, brass band music is the irrepressible funk music unique to the streets of New Orleans, suitable for second lining and buck jumping any time of year. This is a great place to start with the Dirty Dozen. All of their CDs are high quality; but I give the edge to them live. That said, try also to locate their newest live recording, We Got Robbed – Live In New Orleans, either at the Louisiana Music Factory or their website.

Feel Like Funkin' It Up, Rebirth Brass Band (Rounder)
This CD came out in the 1980’s, when these guys were teenagers and Kermit Ruffins was still with them on trumpet. Thus, it has a youthful exuberance that makes it that much more exciting for a studio recording. As one of the best brass outfits in New Orleans on the streets or in the clubs, the band continues to come on strong. I just saw them live last weekend; and they’ve still got it. Any of the their CDs are good, but this has one of their Mardi Gras classics, “Do Whatcha Wanna (pt 2)”.

Wild Tchoupitoulas, The Wild Tchoupitoulas (Mango)
As featured on Home of the Groove, January 28, 2005.

The Wild Magnolias
A long running Mardi Gras Indian tribe and performance ensemble which has the distinction of being the first to combine their songs with funk music in the early 1970’s, collaborating with Willie Tee and his band on singles and two LPs, later re-issued on CD. The following are good choices:
Life Is A Carnival (Metro Blue/Blue Note) – This 1999 release is strong, heavy with the Indian spirit, and long on funk with collaborations with the best musicians New Orleans has to offer and other guests.
1313 Hoodoo Street (AIM) – An Australian label; but recorded in NOLA. This one doesn’t really have as much Indian vibe, as they cover some New Orleans funk by Dr. John and the Neville Brothers, a Louis Jordan tune, as well as some Indian tunes and a couple of obscure Allen Toussaint Mardi Gras tunes. The playing is pretty good; but frankly, Bo Dollis’ ragged vocals wear a bit after a while.
The Wild Magnolias (Polygram) – Well, the prices have soared on the CD re-issue of the original 1974 LP, since it is now out of print. You can find it at GEMM (the LP, too) or check your local used CD sources and, if you are patient, maybe you’ll get a deal. Willie Tee and band make these tracks ooze funk and the production tends toward the trippy at times. A classic.
They Call Us Wild (Polygram) – Ditto the re-issue of their second LP from 1975; but a bit less overboard on effects. Again, with both LP and CD, you can find it at GEMM. Good luck.

January 26, 2005

The Bonerama Experience

>>Reprinted revised from Home of the Groove 12/16/2004<<

The Friday before Thanksgiving, we took I-10 across the Basin, that great swath of swampland, lakes, bayous and waterways, that lies just to the east of Lafayette, and went down to New Orleans for the big Bonerama CD release party at Tipitina’s. They were throwing down in celebration of their new one, Live From New York, a worthy follow-up to their 2001 debut, Live at the Old Point.

Both their CDs recorded live? Obviously, they thrive on that musician/audience synergy and don’t want to be damped down by the remote confines of a recording studio. Having seen them play numerous times over that past few years, I can attest to the impact and prowess of this aggregation that probably could have sprung up nowhere else but in The Home of the Groove. In the basic unit, you’ve got four trombonists, one playing at times through wah-wah and a cranked guitar amp, a sousaphonist, guitarist, and trap drummer, all wailing on ballsy, brassy, funk-infused originals, some fine tunes by other NOLA composers, plus unbelievable covers of classic rock (!) songs by Hendrix, the Allman Brothers, et al. Such experimentation could have been a disaster; but, inspired by generations of musical cross-breeding on New Orleans’ streets and stages, these masterful, inventive players have birthed and raised-up a gloriously conglomerated harmonic groove-monster.

When Bonerama unleash their New Orleans Brass Funk Rock, they blow you down, turn you around, then suck you into a wild, irresistible carnival ride. The tunes are joyous (even funny) and mind-bending. My favorite song of our night and on the new CD (so far) remains co-founder Craig Klein’s “Shake Your Rugalator”, struttin’ its classic second line roots. Recorded at the Tribeca Rock Club in Manhattan, Live From New York is a great representation of the band’s show and has some cool special guests, legendary ‘bone man Fred Wesly (James Brown, JB Horns) and Galactic drummer Stanton Moore. The party at Tip’s had even more. Fred and Stanton couldn’t make it; so, instead, trombonists Rick Trolsen (a former member), Big Sam Williams, and Andy Pizzo joined the horn line. Not only that, singer/guitarist Anders Osborne sat in most of the night, along with master sousaphonist Kirk Joseph, and the patron saint of funk bass, George Porter, Jr. In all that’s seven trombones, two sousaphones, bass, drums, and two guitars. Am I forgetting anybody? Oh yeah, drummer David Russell Batiste (who played on the first CD) of the Funky Meters sat in on a song, too.

We reluctantly left the club near 2:00 AM with them still holding forth and the crowd hanging on for more. I had that righteous new CD in my hand; and I keep it spinning regularly. It’s the next best thing to being at one of their impressive gigs; and you don’t have to burn your clothes afterwards. Go to to hear audio clips, find out more about the band, get on the mailing list, and buy a CD; or pick one up at Louisiana Music Factory. And check out the Offbeat interview with the band’s other co-founder, Mark Mullins, for further enlightenment.

To sense the unique and powerful mojo of contemporary New Orleans music at its shape-shifting finest, a Bonerama encounter, live or virtual, is in order. Catch ‘em, if you can. You probably won’t ever be the same. Hell, I didn’t even realize I had a rugalator, until I shook mine that night. Thanks to everybody for all the fun.