FROM ROCK’N’ROLL TO THE END OF THE CARNIVAL
More than any other city in the world, New Orleans has been responsible for shaping the sound of twentieth century popular music. Sweeping statement that may be, but as the birthplace of jazz, funk and arguably rock’n’roll, it really has no other contenders. At the heart of these three widely different varieties of music lies the rhythmic complexity of second line parade drumming. Its two-beat patterns combining military band and Caribbean rhythms underpin the early recordings of Louis Armstrong as much as they do those of Little Richard and James Brown.
Discs One & Two of this set cover the classic period the New Orleans r&b and rock’n’roll and feature records which most people would now identify as quintessentially New Orleans. On discs Three & Four, we find the music on the cusp between the end of the rock’n’roll era and the birth of soul music.
The tracks on discs Five and Six reflects the final move towards more soulful productions and present the best music produced in the city before the entire scene finally scattered and the musicians dispersed in 1963-64.
After spending the last couple of months basking in the aural joy of this label’s Rhythm & Blues Chronology series covering the 1940s, I’ve reached the conclusion that anything which comes off the Rhythm and Blues Records production line is bound for ‘top of the stack’ status. This exquisitely packaged 6 CD set, presented in a handy hard-back book format, pushes every button a fan of Blues, R&B or Rock “n’ Roll might have. Here’s 160 – yes, 160(!) tracks starting with Rip It Up by Little Richard in 1955 all the way to Huey ‘Piano’ Smith and his Clowns Talk To Me Baby in 1962. The journey from disk 1 to disk 6 is an education, made more so by Nick Duckett’s 24 pages of comprehensive notes which forms the central section of the package. A fine collection like this will always remind us that, no matter how long you’ve been around and listening to R&B, there’s still a helluva lot we’ve missed. Names which represent true rarity, often by long-vanished single record artists whose fine work may well have been buried by time but for the forensic research and digging by true aficionados like Mr. Duckett. There are some terrific items which have been hitherto unreleased, such as Leonard Carbo’s I Don’t Want To Lose Her, Larry Williams’ Oh Baby, Tommy Ridgley’s dynamic Real Gone Jam or the quirky Tell Me The Truth by the Turquinettes. In fact up to 50% of these records feature names a great many of us, R&B devotees or not, may well never have heard of, yet everything on this glorious hours-long listening spree will serve to remind us all that Chicago, New York, Memphis and L.A. may have been important spokes on the blues and rock wheel, but New Orleans was the hub. There is a unique, joyous bounce to the Louisiana sound. It emanates from the small, passion-packed studios which echoed to the rolling rhythms of Professor Longhair and the cheeky thrust of Fats Domino, both of whom feature here, as well as dozens of other luminaries such as Art Neville, Frankie Ford and TV Slim. If you can’t afford the fare to New Orleans, then this is a highly economical alternative. I’ve been firing up my gumbo and stirring my jambalaya to these records. We could all do with a touch of Mardi Gras in our dour British winter – and these six platters will turn anyone’s front room into North Rampart Street. I suppose by now youve reached the conclusion I like this. Damn right – highly recommended. ROY BAINTON