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Anger fuels New Orleans CD

Stewart Oksenhorn
Cyril Neville, of the Neville Brothers, contributed a version of "This Is My Country" to "Sing Me Back Home," a CD by the New Orleans Social Club. (Michael Crook photo)
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Here are a some reviews of current CDs:The New Orleans Social Club, “Sing Me Back Home”produced by Leo Sacks & Ray Bardani (Burgundy/Sony)The titles here, of both the CD, “Sing Me Back Home” and of the collective of musicians responsible for it, are all kinds of misleading. Yes, the artists here are all New Orleans icons: Dr. John, several Nevilles, Big Chief Monk Boudreaux and the subdudes (who have one foot in Louisiana and the other in Colorado). But “Social Club” suggests something polite and clean, which this album sometimes is not. “Sing Me Back Home” is borrowed from a Merle Haggard tune which doesn’t appear on the album. And, Ivan Neville and Cyril Neville said in an interview with The Dallas Morning News this week, they have both relocated to Austin – where this CD was recorded – and don’t plan on moving back to New Orleans anytime soon.Separately, those two Nevilles kick off “Sing Me Back Home,” and though the album overall is balanced between hurting and healing, the two opening tracks make a fierce impression. Cyril Neville kicks off with a cover Curtis Mayfield’s “This Is My Country,” which offers a defiant African-American perspective on U.S. ideals: “I’ve paid three hundred years or more / Of slave driving, sweat, and welts on my back,” sings Neville Brother Cyril, who, in the Dallas article, is quoted saying, “If you’re black, you’re not welcome back in New Orleans.” His take on the song captures all the fire of his emotions, and the line, “We’ve survived a hard blow” rings especially true.

Ivan follows with an equally pointed statement, a cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son,” a song about how the bottom rungs of society pay the prices of war and tragedy. Ivan’s funked-up take betters even the track by uncle Cyril. Closing out the song, he sings “Take me back to New Orleans,” but apparently he’s had a change of heart.Other tracks are meant to uplift (the subdudes’ “Make a Better World,” “Look Up,” by the duo of Irma Thomas and Marcia Ball), or reconcile (Dr. John’s reworking of “Walking to New Orleans,” John Boutt’s “Why”). But the real musical fire here is in the Nevilles’ anger.”Gospel Music”produced by Joel Dorn and Lee Friedlander (Hyena)Something tells me that Joel Dorn and Lee Friedlander, producers of this collection of black gospel recordings from the mid-20th century, are, like me, not affiliated with any Christian church. But I wouldn’t be surprised if, like this non-Christian, they devoted Sunday mornings to listening to songs of Jesus, heaven and the holy waters. “Gospel Music” features such stars as Mahalia Jackson, the Original Five Blind Boys of Alabama, and the Staple Singers, as well as lesser-knowns like The Trumpeteers and the Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet. All of the tracks included here find an undeniable power in spiritual devotion; check out the monster vocal performance by the Staples Singers on “Stand By Me.”

And you don’t even have to be Jewish to enjoy this.”Cult Cargo: Belize City Boil-Up” and “Eccentric Soul: The Deep City Label”(Numero Group)The archive label Numero Group is doing a fine job of uncovering old treasures and packaging them in a way that makes sense. These two discs focus on regions.”Cult Cargo” gathers tracks from the tiny, but worth hearing music community of the Caribbean nation of Belize, spanning 1960-80. The star here is Lord Rhaburn, who is responsible for a quarter of the 16 tracks. A singer and drummer who became an American citizen after serving in the U.S. Air Force, Rhaburn returned to Belize apparently loaded with ideas that mixed American soul with island styles, especially Jamaican ska. Definitely worth hearing for fans of early reggae and ’60s.

“Eccentric Soul” collects songs from Miami in the mid-’60s. It’s not thought of as an epicenter of soul, but as the notes point out, in the wake of the success of Motown, numerous cities had multiple soul labels trying to duplicate Berry Gordy’s triumphs in Detroit. Dominating this CD are Willie Clarke and Johnny Pearsall, who met while members of Florida A&M’s marching band and, from the samples here, could have given the Temptations and Smoky Robinson a run for their money.”Sunday Nights: The Songs of Junior Kimbrough”(Fat Possum) The blues have gotten, of all things, polite and polished, on the whole. Mississippi’s Fat Possum label, home to T-Model Ford and the late R.L Burnside, has stood as an antidote to that, and this tribute to singer, guitarist and juke-joint owner David “Junior Kimbrough,” who died in 1998, dirties up the blues even more. “Sunday Nights” opens with Iggy and the Stooges ramming through “You Better Run Version #1,” which features the threat of a rape. That’s the roughest the CD gets, but throughout, artists like Spiritualized, the Black Keys, Heartless Bastards and the Fiery Furnances blast into Kimbrough’s catalog with blues-rock intensity and little regard for etiquette.Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is stewart@aspentimes.com


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