What are your favorite soul songs

Soul and funk albums from New Orleans: Favorite songs and voodoo magic

From this city the music world was changed: news and out-of-print items from Allen Toussaint, Betty Harris and the funk from New Orleans.

Mastermind of the New Orelans music scene: Allen Toussaint Photo: Nonesuch

Allen Toussaint was an incredibly busy musician, but he was also attached to his homeland. He did not go on extensive concert tours until Hurricane "Katrina" destroyed his house and studio in New Orleans. Then Toussaint moved to New York for some time and made the world public aware of the grievances in the reconstruction of his hometown.

In the almost forty years before, it was enough for the pianist, composer and producer to change the music world from Louisiana. And, no question about it, he really did. His idiosyncratic form of New Orleans soul, R&B and funk influenced entire generations of musicians across all genre boundaries.

When the 77-year-old Toussaint died of a heart attack after a concert in Madrid in November 2015, Roots drummer Questlove posted: "Bet that Allen Toussaint composed some of your favorite songs without you knowing?"

That's probably true. “Working in the Coalmine”, sung by Lee Dorsey, “Yes we can can” interpreted by the Pointer Sisters, Labelles “Lady Marmelade”, the catchy tune “Southern Nights” or “Fortune Teller” in the Rolling version Stones are just a few examples.

Stomper for the carnival

As the producer of Dr. John's album "In the Right Place" he helped his friend break through in 1973. So he was important to fellow artists, and yet his own interpretations of other songs are on par with them. Toussaint took on his last album, "American Tunes", with two exceptions, the compositions of others and interpreted the songs on the piano. He mixes the carnival stomper “Mardi Gras in New Orleans” by Professor Longhair with tender tones with his solo piano performance, and Professor Longhair's sweaty “Hey Little Girl” in the original sounds like a typical, leaned back brothel bar song New Orleans.

It's that certain dirty note that gives this music its kick

Wherever it made sense musically, Toussaint engaged experienced guests. With swinging brooms and spotted bass lines, Jay Bellerose on drums and David Piltch on bass in songs like "Viper's Drag" by Thomas "Fats" Waller or Confessin '(That I Love You) "conjure up exuberant tired feelings, which are the result of a successful dance evening set shortly before curfew.

Van Dyke Parks plays the second piano in Toussaint's “Southern Nights”. With Duke Ellington's “Rocks in My Bed”, Rihannon Giddens clears enormous stones out of the way in blues fashion. How she interprets Ellington's “Come Sunday” as a stiff opera is hard to bear. At the end Toussaint sings "American Tune" by Paul Simon - a worthy farewell.

The forgotten queen

Allain Toussaint was a fascinating central figure in the New Orleans Sou, you can meet him everywhere in this city. Between 1964 and 1969 he composed songs for the soul singer Betty Harris - partly under his pseudonym Naomi Neville - which can now be heard on the compilation "Betty Harris - The Lost Queen of New Orleans Soul". However, Harris, who comes from Florida, never lived in New Orleans.

She was flown in from Orlando for the recordings. Harris is still assigned to the New Orleans Soul because she gave him her incomparably heated, sexy voice - and because her recordings were made with The Meters, the house band of the Toussaint label Sansu at the time.

Betty Harris at a New Orleans Basin Street club in 1964 Photo: Souljazz

In addition to the musical skill of all those involved, it is the certain dirty note that gives every music from New Orleans the kick, triggered by the humid climate. The extra-lofty, pumping beats and outrageous funk trumpets, which in the opening song "There's a Break in the Road" are spurred on by creaking noises, are the prelude to a vital soul revue that is still performed today in New Orleans, for example in Club Rock ' n 'Bowl, a bowling alley adorned with voodoo paraphernalia.

The attribute "lost" indicates the discrepancy between the recognition Harris enjoys in connoisseur circles and the lack of commercial success. The preacher's daughter, who came from gospel, retrained for secular R&B at Big Maybelle and had two small chart successes before 1964 with the decelerated Solomon Burke song “Cry to me” and “His Kiss”. She subsequently recorded ten singles with Toussaint, including hit-like uptempo numbers such as “Ride your Pony” and “Mean Man”, whose lively lightness contrasts with the promise to remain in favor of the “common man” despite everything only the slender slide "Nearer to You" made it into the charts.

Harris himself blamed Beatlemania, which was rampant at the same time, for her failure. Had she been played more on the radio, and not just the Beatles, her career would have taken a different course. So much for speculation. The fact is that in 1967 the upcoming European tour with Otis Redding did not come off because he was killed in a plane crash. Harris, who had also performed with the likes of Sam Cooke, James Brown, and Aretha Franklin, took that as a sign.

In 1970 Harris retired, went to college, and looked after her family. She has only been back on stage since 2005, followed in 2007 by her first own album, “Intuition”. She has remained loyal to soulful R&B - but unlike her weightless soul classics from the 1960s, nobody will remember them in fifty years.

It burns brightly

Allen Toussaint and Betty Harris also appear on the current fourth edition of the compilation series "New Orleans Funk", which illuminates another side of this city. "Jazz is the preacher, funk is the teacher and the drum is the heartbeat", quotes Soul Jazz Records founder Stuart Baker at the beginning of the popular slogan in the liner notes. The compilation bears the subtitle "Voodoo Fire in New Orleans 1951-1975", an occasion for Baker to look far back into the eventful colonial history of Crescent City.

Allen Toussaint: "American Tunes" (Nonesuch / Warner); Betty Harris: "The Lost Queen of New Orleans Soul" (Soul Jazz / Indigo); Various artists: "New Orleans Funk 4, Vodoo Fire In New Orleans 1951-75", (Soul Jazz / Indigo)

He not only names different musical influences such as Caribbean rumba and mambo rhythms, the drum rolls and chants of the Mardi Gras Indians, Cajun, the percussions and wind instruments of the second line funeral parades and later R & B and Zydeco - all musical styles that are still on today can be heard in every corner of the city (the great TV series “Tremé” carefully depicts this diversity). He explains how and from where the individual styles of music developed from which the syncopated beat of the so-called voodoo funk of New Orleans developed in the 1960s.

He also highlights the central role of Congo Square (today part of Louis Armstrong Park) in the Tremé district, where slaves, former slaves and free blacks gathered for Sunday dancing and making music as early as the 18th century. Voodoo priest Doctor John (the namesake of voodoo ocher Dr. John) and voodoo queen Marie Leveaux held their ceremonies there, in which different religions and their musical traditions entered into a mind-expanding connection.

Some of the songs in the compilation can be described as predecessors and trailblazers for New Orleans Funk. In James Waynes ’" Junco Partner "from 1951, the connection with funk is difficult to make out, the song is still deeply rooted in the rhythm and blues of the 40s. Even later cover versions by Professor Longhair, Dr. John or The Clash are typical brothel piano blues from New Orleans, R & B or Dubreggae.

Beats and Trumpets

On the other hand, "I'm Gonna Git Ya", composed by Allen Toussaint and sung by Betty Harris, is an excellent soul piece. Toussaint stirred “Pop, Popcorn Children” by Eldridge Holmes through a funk kettle during the production, beats and trumpets plop through the song like loose corn kernels. The directive “Let the Groove Move You” issued by Gus “The Groove” Lewis in 1967 can be followed without any problems.

Chocolate Milk - the eight-member radio group that replaced The Meters as a house band at Sansu - made political demands under the banner of well-orchestrated funk in "Action Speaks Louder than Words" in 1975, with groovy breaks, wahwah guitars, hydraulic synthesis sounds and choral shout-and-response. Singing.

In the penultimate song of the compilation, Chuck Colbert & Viewpoint knock on the doors of the disco with “Stay”, and Zilla Mayes ’“ All I Want Is You ”from 1968 is reminiscent of Garagensoul in the sound of The Seeds. “Voodoo Fire in New Orleans” thus conveys a voodoo self-image: the merging of the most diverse influences into a diverse, captivating whole.