Monday, November 14, 2005

The Meters - Loving You Is On My Mind (REPRISE 1314)

Loving You Is On My Mind

In the late sixties, Art Neville started a group called "The Neville Sounds". In addition to brothers Charles and Cyril, the band boasted one of New Orleans' go-to session guitarists, Leo Nocentelli (think "Ya-Ya" and "Mother-In-Law"), along with a couple of neighborhood kids that were comin' up, George Porter Jr. on bass, and Joe "Zigaboo" Modeliste on drums. Their gigs at the Nitecap Lounge soon led to a regular job at the Ivanhoe Piano bar in the French Quarter. It was there, doing 3 and 4 sets a night, that they honed their skills and became the true progenitors of funk!

Allen Toussaint used to come down and listen with his new partner, former Fire/Fury promotion man Marshall Sehorn. They soon hired them (sans vocalists Cyril and Charles) as the 'house band' for their newly formed Sansu Enterprises. While in the studio backing up other artists, Toussaint suggested that they record some of the instrumentals they had worked out during their stint at the Ivanhoe. Changing their name to The Meters, the singles were released on Jubille subsidiary Josie Records. Much to everyone's surprise, "Sophisticated Cissy" and "Cissy Strut" went straight to the top ten on the R&B charts in 1969. The following year, "Look-A-Py-Py" and "Chicken Strut" climbed as far as #11... The Meters were on a roll!

In addition to more singles, Josie released 3 albums of their unique funky grooves, then promptly went out of business by the end of 1970. The Meters then signed with Warner Bros/Reprise and issued Cabbage Alley in 1972. The label seemed unfamiliar with the R&B market (especially in the South), and the record went nowhere. It was also around this time that Cosimo Matassa's fabled Jazz City Studios went bankrupt, leaving New Orleans without a decent recording facility. Toussaint and Sehorn, along with some heavy financial backing, worked out a deal and opened the state-of-the-art 'Sea-Saint Recording Studio' in 1973.

One of the first albums recorded at the new plant was Dr. John's In The Right Place, an incredible collaboration between Rebennack, Toussaint and The Meters. The record was a huge international success, which saw the Good Doctor touring Europe in support of the album with Professor Longhair and The Meters in tow!

The studio began to get noticed, and in 1974 things started to happen. Dr. John's equally excellent follow-up album Desitively Bonnaroo was recorded as was Robert Palmer's Sneakin' Sally Through The Alley, both with absolutely awe-inspiring backup provided by The Meters. This year also saw the release of The Meters' own Rejuvenation, one of the truly great albums of all time. A single from the record, Hey Pocky A-Way even made it into the Pop Top 40!

People like Paul McCartney and Paul Simon were suddenly knocking on Sea-Saint's door, looking to capture some magic of their own. The Meters opened for The Rolling Stones on their 1975 and 1976 tours, at which point Mick Jagger called them "the best mother-f#%king band on the planet".

Their next album Fire On The Bayou was released in late 1975, and once again just rocked da house!

My first Mardi-Gras was in 1976, and a local single released from the album "They All Ask For You" (Sansu 1014) was THE carnival song that year, blaring from every car radio and jukebox in New Orleans. When I got back to New York, I saw The Meters open for The Staple Singers at the late lamented Bottom Line. Talk about your basic life-changing experience!! I became their biggest fan.

1976 also saw the release of The Wild Tchoupitoulas, the all time classic Mardi-Gras Indian record, a tribute to Art Neville's uncle Big Chief Jolly's uptown rulers. In addition to The Meters, the album also featured Art's brothers Cyril (who had actually re-appeared on "Fire On The Bayou"), Charles and Aaron. While truly a great album, I believe it foreshadowed the end of The Meters and marked the beginnings of The Neville Brothers.

The uneven Trick Bag was released later that year, followed by the underwhelming New Directions in 1977. This was to be The Meters final album.

What happened? Essentially, like most music industry stories, it all came down to money... money and egos. Marshall Sehorn (considered by many as the Walter O'Malley of New Orleans music) stopped paying The Meters a dime, claiming they owed HIM for studio time at Sea-Saint, and that royalties from their record sales weren't enough to cover it (a lot of people, myself included, contend that he wouldn't even have HAD a studio if it weren't for them...)! Sansu Enterprises then actually claimed that they had the rights to the group's NAME, and that they couldn't continue to use it once they left their employment! (man!)

Needless to say, by the end of the decade The Meters had ceased to exist.

Much of their Josie material remained available under one re-package or another over the years (and has been heavily sampled by rap and hip-hop artists), but the Reprise records hit the cut-out bins, then remained out of print for the next 25 years! That is until SUNDAZED RECORDS (God bless their pea-pickin' little hearts) vowed that they will "...never rest until we've released every classic album ever recorded by The Meters!"

Today's selection, the B side of the mighty People Say comes from Rejuvenation. That piano... that guitar... go buy it!

Go buy Fire On The Bayou too, if only for the uber-funk of "Love Slip Upon Ya"... you won't be sorry!

NOW... why all of this long-winded spouting about some long defunct band? Because, dear readers, DEY BACK Y'ALL!!! That's right, after a triumphant reunion at this year's Jazz Fest, the ORIGINAL METERS have been touring this fall, and by all accounts they are JUST SMOKIN'!!

ANYWAY, they'll be playing at the brand new NOKIA Theater in NYC on November 25th... I am SO THERE!



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lovin' the're going to be on the links starting this weekend. Fantastic stuff, all of it!

11:21 AM  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

Red, I must be totally losing it not to have see this stuff earlier. For some reason, the link I had to your blog disappeared. Nice work. Great tunes. Sorry I'm late to the party - yeah, you rite.

2:25 AM  
Blogger Johnny Bacardi said...

Rejuvenation is a hella-good album and a longtime favorite of mine. Great post!

6:05 PM  

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