Gumbo Stew by various artists. Yes, it was the cover art that first attracted me to this collection. The cover features a colorized photo of Prince La La in full Afro/Mardi Gras regalia with a couple of his "subjects" in even more colorful clothes.
Prince La La (born Lawrence Nelson) is only one of the New Orleans icons on Gumbo Stew. There's Eddie Bo, Cornell Dupree, a young Dr. John and several others who are even lesser known outside of the world of Crescent City music fanatics.
The album is a compilation of material of the small but influential New Orleans label AFO, started by musicians' musician Harold Battiste. AFO was short for "All For One," the guiding principal of the company, which Battiste started to give local musicians a fairer deal that the national labels. ("All For One" also is the name of a soulful song done here by singer Willie Tee.)
You won't find many big hits here. Apparently another version of the collection contained "I Know (You Don't Love Me No More)" by Barbara George, a song I remember from my youth. For some reason it's not on the album I downloaded from eMusic. But that's just a small mistake. There's plenty to make up for that.
Gumbo Stew kicks off with a breezy, funky jazz instrumental called "Olde Wine" credited tot he AFO Executives. Then the hoodoo starts with "Mojo Hannah" by Tami Lynn, a song covered earlier this year by Andre Williams, who co-wrote it in the early '60s. It's also been covered by Esther Phillips, Aaron Neville and Marvin Gaye, who according to Dan Phillips at the Home of the Groove blog, was the first to record it.
Prince La La's contribution here is "Things Have Changed," an upbeat tune driven by exotic-sounding percussion, piano and flute. Eddie Bo's "Tee Na Na Na Na Nay" takes you right to the Mardi Gras, while Dr. John with keyboardist Ronnie Baron play "My Key Don't Fit," an easy-going number with hints of Dixieland. Meanwhile, gruff-voiced Wallace Johnson name-checks early TV detectives like Peter Gunn and Richard Diamond on "Private Eye."
Some songs sound like they were recorded in the late '60s. These include Alvin Robinson's "Tuned In, Turned On" (co-written by that crafty old Night Tripper, Dr. John) and the funky instrumental "Ignant" by Cornell Dupree.
Definitely the most twisted song on Gumbo Stew is "I Found Out" by Willie Tee. It's a song about a poor guy who meets the love of his life. But when she takes him home to meet her family, he finds his aunt and uncle. "I found out you are my cousin/And now there'll be no more lovin' ..." Willie sings.
There's two other Gumbo Stew albums available on eMusic, More Gumbo Stew and Still Spicy Gumbo Stew. If you're a casual fan New Orleans R&B, these should deepen your appreciation.
I Bet on Sky by Dinosaur Jr. The 21st century version of Dinosaur Jr is more melodic than it was back in its young days. But the intensity remains.
As has been the case since the band’s early days, J. Mascis is still the indisputable frontman. He wrote and sings most of the songs on Sky — his high-pitched whine still provides the emotional center for Dinosaur Jr., while his trademark stormy guitar solos dominate the proceedings. And yes, Uncle Neil is still a huge influence.
Sound familiar? I reviewed this in Terrell's Tuneup a few weeks ago, along with the latest Mission of Burma album. See that HERE
Meat and Bone by The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. Eight years after The Blues Explosion's previous album, this comeback effort is a dandy, stuffed full of the maniacal, irreverent, rompin’-stompin’ sounds that shook the free world back in the ’90s.
All the old intensity is evident on “Black Mold,” the riff-driven first song of the new album. The tune was inspired by Spencer’s discovery of a box of records that had gotten damp and moldy in his basement.
This sound familiar also? I review this in yet another Terrell's Tuneup column. See that one HERE.
* "Sweet Jenny Lee" and "St. Louis Blues" by Cab Calloway. I've been nibbling at the Cab Calloway collection The Early Years 1930-1934 for years now. I had a couple of tracks left over at the end of the month, so I nabbed these. I especially like "Sweet Jenny Lee," a song that's also been covered by western-swing giants like Bob Wills and Milton Brown. Willie Nelson did a great version also on his collaboration with Asleep at the Wheel a couple of years ago.