Monday, October 31, 2005

Al Robinson - Sho 'Bout To Drive Me Wild (PULSAR 2408)

Sho 'Bout To Drive Me Wild

What Can I say? Alvin "Shine" Robinson was just about the coolest guy to ever rise up out of Sugar Town! I mean, check out this rockin' record - arranged by Harold Battiste, with writing credit being shared with none other than Mac Rebennack, Jessie Hill, and King Floyd (who I'm sure are playing on here as well...)! It must be jelly 'cuz jam don't shake like dat! It was released in 1969 as the B side of "Empty Talk", a Ray Charles styled R&B groaner that didn't do much in the charts.

Robinson's first singles came out on Imperial in the early 60s. Once Lew Chudd sold out to Liberty Records and left New Orleans in 1963, he began working with Battiste and the rest of the krewe over at AFO. When THEY folded the following year, Alvin jumped in Joe Jones' legendary station wagon and headed to New York City. It was there he would hook up with Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller and record his best sides (for an overview of this period, check out Larry Grogan's excellent article in his Funky 16 Corners webzine). When Lieber and Stoller sold their labels, Robinson tried one more single with Joe Jones ("Whatever You Had You Ain't Got No More", an answer record to the great "Something You Got" that borrows heavily on it's groove...) before pulling up stakes and heading for the west coast.

It was here in L.A. that he rejoined the expatriate AFO gang from NOLA. Battiste had made a name for himself as the arranger on Sonny & Cher's string of gold records for ATCO, and could pretty much call his own shots. This guaranteed Alvin work as a session musician and got him a single released on ATCO in 1968 ("Let Me Down Easy" b/w "Baby Don't You Do It", the Holland-Dozier-Holland gem that Allen Toussaint and The Band reworked on their Rock Of Ages LP a few years later). Two PULSAR releases (this one and "Soulful Woman") followed in '69. They were to be his last solo efforts.

He became a member of Dr. John's touring outfit, and appeared on a number of his albums during the 1970s. It was his friendship with Rebennack that got him down with the Tropicana Motel crowd, appearing on such cool records as Tom Waits' "Blue Valentine" in 1978 and Chuck E. Weiss' "The Other Side Of Town" in 1981.

After a 1984 album with Big Joe Turner, Alvin Robinson finally returned home to New Orleans. His last recorded work was on Chuck Carbo's killer B side of B sides, "Meet Me With Your Black Drawers On", released as a single on 504 records in time for Mardi Gras in 1989. By Jazz Fest, Alvin was dead.

The amazing thing to me is that nobody ever asked him to SING! I mean, don't get me wrong, I love his guitar playing and all, but that VOICE!

Oh well.

An album of Robinson's early sides was released by CHARLY in the UK in 1988, but is now, sadly, out of print. His unreleased material from the AFO days is now available on the excellent Gumbo Stew series. The Red Bird and Blue Cat recordings show up on various import compilations from time to time... but, basically, if you do a search for 'Alvin Robinson' at Amazon you get 'no results found'. THAT is a crime.

"Shine on Alvin, Shine on!" - John Broven

Monday, October 24, 2005

Walter "Wolfman" Washington and Solar System - You Got Me Worried (HEP' ME 161)

You Got Me Worried

In 1965 Walter Washington played guitar (yes, THAT guitar!) on Lee Dorsey's "Ride Your Pony". On October 1st of this year he became the first artist to perform live in post-Katrina New Orleans, plugging his amps into a generator at the fabled Maple Leaf Bar. The intervening years have seen him grow into one of the Crescent City's most loved and treasured institutions.

Walter (a nephew of Lightnin' Slim!) got his start playing in Dorsey's touring band and later joined Irma Thomas' group The Tornados. He continued to hone his chops, both as a bandleader and vocalist, playing backup for Johnny Adams for over 20 years (...their late night gigs at Dorothy's Medallion Lounge would become legendary!).

It was Adams who brought Walter to the attention of "Senator" Jones, the last true independent record man in New Orleans. Jones recorded two singles on him, and eventually released an album, "Leader of the Pack", on his HEP' ME label in 1981. Shortly thereafter the good Senator, frustrated by the corporate take-over of most of the local radio stations, threw up his hands and walked away.

We were talking to Walter one night in the late 80s after an incredibly smokin' set at TRAMPS in NYC, and asked him why he wouldn't play any of his Senator Jones era material. "That man owes me money!" was the reply. 'Nuff Said.

Most of Wolfman's HEP' ME recordings are available on CD (as are his later excellent ROUNDER releases), but once again today's entry, the flip side of "Good and Juicy" is nowhere in sight. It remains one of my all-time faves - the guitar, the vocals, 'dem Sam Henry Jr. horn charts - YEAH YOU RITE!

If you've never seen Walter and his current band The Roadmasters perform live, you owe it to yourself to check 'em out. They're the Real Deal!

Monday, October 17, 2005

Johnny Adams - Who's Gonna Love You (RON 986)

Who's Gonna Love You

Here is the B side of "A Losing Battle", which scored the Tan Canary's biggest dent into the national R&B charts in 1962. Although his 1959 RIC debut "I Won't Cry" would become his signature tune, this two-sided Mac Rebennack slab of soul just rocks the house!

Johnny Vincent's "stone hustling partner" Joe Ruffino complained that all New Orleans records were starting to sound the same, and set out to change all that with his own company. By hiring guys like Rebennack, Edgar Blanchard, and Eddie Bo to produce for his RIC and RON labels, he managed to create a sound all his own. Sadly, Ruffino died shortly after the release of our current selection, and his labels folded forever.

Johnny Adams (he of the legendary pipes) went on to record and perform for many years, finally receiving some of the recognition he deserved before his death in 1998.

His early recordings for RIC and RON have been re-issued on CD, but oddly enough today's B side somehow didn't make the cut!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Lee Dorsey - Lonely Evening (ACE 640)

Lonely Evening

This record (the flip side of "Rock Pretty Baby") was first released on Cosimo Matassa's fledgling REX label in 1958. When "Ya-Ya" hit in 1961, Johnny Vincent apparently saw his chance to cash in and put it out on ACE soon afterward - going so far as to change the name of the artist to "Lee Dorsey & His Ya-Ya Band"!

This particular tune, from body & fender man Dorsey's first recording session, features the legendary J&M Studio house band and is just drippin' with that good ol' Nawlins R&B sound!

Writing credit is shared with Reynaud Richard, a local record producer and talent scout who heard Lee singing from underneath a car in his shop and convinced him to come down and record these sides the very same night.

While most of Dorsey's later work with Allen Toussaint has been well documented on CD, here's a classic that kinda fell through the cracks!

Monday, October 03, 2005

Chick Carbo - What Does It Take (Instant 3254)

What Does It Take

This record, the B side of "Two Tables Away", is just about as good as it gets... a 1962 Allen Toussaint gem from da front to da back! The gospel tinged production, the piano, the lyrics ("..I'd even suffer a little while for you, baby!") are all amazing. Chick Carbo's smooth vocals, Nat Perrilliat's tasty saxophone, the incredible rhythm guitar of Roy Montrell... man! By the instrumental break in the middle of the tune, the combo is just locked in, and carryin' it home!

Leonard "Chick" Carbo was, along with his brother Chuck, a founding member of the great New Orleans vocal group the Spiders (pictured at right). Unlike Chuck however (who went on to create proto-funk grooves like "Can I Be Your Squeeze" alongside classic Mardi Gras "Second-Lines" well into the 90s), Chick's recorded output apparently ended here. Despite years of searching, I've been unable to unearth much more information about this golden-throated baritone, except for the fact that he died in 1998.

May his music live on forever!