Archive for Cyril Neville

Funky New Orleans: The Meters Live

Posted in Rock Moment with tags , , , , , , on January 26, 2012 by 30daysout

Editor’s Note: This is a repost of an item we ran a couple of years ago, reappearing here to help get everyone in that Mardi Gras mood. The links have been updated and the Meters are still not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Radio used to be magic.  When the stars aligned, and the right artist played the right venue and radio was there, it could be just beautiful.  Here’s one of those moments: January 1977, at the Showboat Lounge in the Fat City entertainment district of Metairie, which is a suburb of New Orleans.  January in New Orleans is carnival season, and WNOE radio in the Crescent City marked the occasion with an hour-long live show by the always incredible Meters.

The band – featuring Art Neville on keyboards and vocals, Zigaboo Modeliste on drums, George Porter Jr. on bass and Leo Nocentelli on guitar (Cyril Neville may or may not have been an official member of the band, and he wasn’t at this gig) – ripped through some of their Mardi Gras anthems and some seriously greasy second-line funk.

In 1977 the Meters were about as big as they were gonna get: they had put out four albums on Warner Bros., they had opened for the Rolling Stones on their big 1975-76 world tour, they played Paul McCartney’s Venus and Mars party on the Queen Mary in 1974 and later in 1977 they were going to appear on “Saturday Night Live.”  But here they are, in a small joint doing shout-outs on local radio.  Only in New Orleans, and only in that era.  Unfortunately, later in 1977 the Meters would also break up.

This recording captures one of American music’s great bands, tight as high-tension wire but playing as loose and funky as humanly possible.  The recording has amplifier hum as well as that weird FM noise and a really smooth DJ cuts in every once in a while to let you know who dat.  There are also a couple of very minor skips and hiccups (toward the end of “Hey Pocky Way”), but nothing can take away from this great music.

As Art Neville says, “It’s Mardi Gras time all the time, as far as we’re concerned.”  Cook up some red beans and rice or cue this up in the car … and wonder why these guys aren’t in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

MP3: The Meters live at the Showboat Lounge, WNOE-FM, January 1977 (70 minutes)

Song order: “Just Kissed My Baby”/ “Big Chief”/ “Jungle Man”/ “They All Ask’d For You”/ “Hey Pocky Way”/ “People Say”/ “Ain’t No Use”/ “Po Boy Jam” /”Feel Da Groove”

The Original Meters official website

Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: The Wild Tchoupitoulas

Posted in Lost Classics! with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 6, 2011 by 30daysout

Continuing our countdown to Mardi Gras, which is this week: an album that was overlooked at the time of its release in 1976, The Wild Tchoupitoulas has nevertheless come to be considered as a landmark of New Orleans music.  Not only that – it’s a great Mardi Gras party album.

The Wild Tchoupitoulas (pronounced Choo-Pi-TOO-las) was a Thirteenth Ward street gang that put down its weapons and picked up the colorful feathery trappings of Mardi Gras Indians. A tradition dating back to the mid-19th century, the Mardi Gras Indians dressed up in a wild takeoff of Native American garb so they could get around racial segregation. When a large Caribbean population began to grow in the Crescent City that culture assimilated itself into the Mardi Gras Indian tradition.

So, we have The Wild Tchoupitoulas, formed by George Landry, a.k.a. “Chief Jolly.” He had a musical background and his Indians performed a wild call-and-response routine during Mardi Gras parades. When he was approached to possibly cut an album, Jolly recruited as a producer one of the biggest names in New Orleans music – Allen Toussaint.

And for instrumental backup, Chief Jolly didn’t have to look far: he had some nephews who played, their last name was Neville. His nephews Art and Cyril Neville played with seminal NOLA funksters the Meters, who often joined Toussaint on his hit-making projects. With the Meters in the fold, Art and Cyril invited their brother Charles, who was a jazz sideman, and little brother Aaron. Aaron Neville, with an otherworldly voice, who had regional hits like “Tell It Like It Is” and “Everybody Plays The Fool.”

The album kicks off with “Brother John,” the tale of a fallen gang brother, and instantly you can hear the intricate rhythms of the Meters and Art Neville’s sweet keyboard work.  “Meet De Boys On The Battlefront” is an Indian “battle” cry – instead of fighting, this battle is a musical one. “Indians, Here Dey Come” and “Indian Red” are also born from Chief Jolly’s street chants; it’s worth sitting through the long first part of “Indian Red” to get to that little funked-up part about five minutes, 40 seconds in.

Toussaint puts in a ringer, “Hey Pocky-A-Way,” which was a hit of sorts for the Meters in 1974. This version is a little looser than the original, and it features on background vocals the Brothers Neville harmonizing together for the first time.

When The Wild Tchoupitoulas was released it wasn’t a hit (except in New Orleans, of course) but it did inspire the Nevilles to perform together as a brother act. Hence, the Neville Brothers – and when they released their second album in 1981 (the stone classic Fiyo On The Bayou), they kicked it off with a rockin’ version of “Hey Pocky-A-Way” and dedicated it to George “Big Chief Jolly” Landry, who died in 1980.

The Neville Brothers and the Meters continue to be active, and every time one of these units takes a stage it’s a reminder that they deserve more than just about anyone else to be enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Forget Mardi Gras – any time of the year, this is essential American music.

MP3: “Brother John”

MP3: “Meet De Boys On The Battlefront”

MP3: “Indian Red”

The Wild Tchoupitoulas, pictured in 1976


Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: The Meters/Neville Brothers

Posted in Lost Classics! with tags , , , , , , on February 8, 2010 by 30daysout

Guess everyone’s talking about New Orleans today.  So in honor of the Saints in the Super Bowl, and Mardi Gras, let’s take a brief look at two albums with virtually the same title:  Fire On The Bayou by the Meters, and Fiyo On The Bayou, by the Neville Brothers.

The Meters are, of course, one of the greatest bands ever.  That they aren’t in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is one of the true injustices in this world, and proof positive that the people running that Hall are trend-chasing lackeys who are more interested in selling tickets to tourists rather than honoring and preserving the history of great music.  Formed in 1965, the original quartet included drummer Zigaboo Modeliste, guitarist Leo Nocentelli, bassist George Porter Jr. and keyboardist extraordinaire Art Neville.  They had a few R&B instrumental hits including “Cissy Strut” and “Sophisticated Cissy,” and by 1972 they were the most sought-after players in New Orleans.  Becoming the house band for Allen Toussaint’s Sansu Records, they played on hits from Dr. John (“Right Place, Wrong Time”), Labelle (“Lady Marmalade”), Ernie K-Doe and many others.

In 1974 Paul McCartney asked the Meters to play on his album Venus and Mars, then they played the album’s release party aboard the Queen Mary.  Mick Jagger was blown away by the Meters, so he invited them to tour with the Stones that year.  That leads to 1975, and the album Fire On The Bayou.  Produced by Allen Toussaint, this classic unveiled the now classic title cut as well as a new, fifth band member: little Neville brother Cyril, on vocals and percussion.  “Fire” showcases what the Meters were all about: some really tasty riffs on top of a spicy, funky little rhythm.  “Talkin’ About New Orleans” and the extended groove “Middle Of The Road” are more of the same.

But there are two cuts that stand out above the rest: “Mardi Gras Mambo” is actually a cover, the original was cut in 1953 as a country song but the next year a New Orleans band, the Hawketts, made it their own.  The Hawketts were led by then-17-year-old Art Neville, and the song became a Mardi Gras standard.  The Meters’ version substituted Neville’s keyboards for the tasty sax on the Hawketts’ record, but it rocks anyway.  And then there’s “They All Ask’d For You,” a tune with some local catchphrases and an insanely catchy melody.  The Meters claimed writing credit on it, but there’s evidence at least some part of this song has been handed down among New Orleans musicians over the years but no matter – I remember going to New Orleans for Mardi Gras in 1976 or so and it was everywhere.

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Diggin’ Up Some New Roots & Blues

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 7, 2009 by 30daysout

Ryan Bingham          flatlanders_hills_main

The most interesting music coming out right now could be classified as roots music – country-rock, Americana, folk-rock, blues, etc.  These artists may appear mainly on indie labels, or are big names trying to figure out a new hook but for the most part they are making some pretty good music.

Ryan Bingham, coming out of the wild west (New Mexico) and using Texas as his base, rocks on Roadhouse Sun, his third album.  Like on Mescalito, his breakthrough album from 2007, Bingham infuses his music with heavy doses of Rolling Stones/Black Crowes sensibility (Crowes guitarist Marc Ford produced this), and on “Change Is,” mixes in a dollop of Led Zeppelin. 

MP3: “Dylan’s Hard Rain” by Ryan Bingham

The Flatlanders may be a legend, but they’re also a band – and Hills and Valleys, their fourth official release, may be their best yet.  Kicking off with the brilliant “Homeland Refugee” and the voice of Joe Ely, this Texas trio kicks the Lone Star dust off their boots and range far afield with selections like “Cry For Freedom” but their words hit home and sound just right for today.  Highly recommended.

MP3: “No Way I’ll Never Need You” by the Flatlanders

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It’s Time To Enshrine The Meters/Neville Brothers!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on February 23, 2009 by 30daysout

The Neville Brothers

If there is anyone who deserves to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, it’s Art Neville.  He should have been one of the first guys to get in there.  Art is the cornerstone of two of the greatest bands of all time- both of which should have been in the Rock Hall a long time ago.

Of course, Art Neville is the keyboardist and singer of The Meters (sometimes known as the Funky Meters), simply the finest bunch of musicians to ever come out of New Orleans.  The Meters – guitarist Leo Nocentelli, drummer Joseph “Zigaboo” Modeliste, bass player George Porter Jr. and Art Neville – collaborated with the great Allen Toussaint on landmark recordings.  They appear on “Right Place, Wrong Time” by Dr. John, “Lady Marmalade” by Labelle, “Listen To What the Man Said” by Paul McCartney and Wings, and countless other hits.

The Meters also made their own records, and they are great.  They worked as a mostly instrumental unit in the late 1960s and early 1970s, cranking out such funky standards as “Look-Ka Py Py” and “Cissy Strut.”  But in 1972 they signed with Warner Bros./Reprise and added Art’s little brother Cyril on vocals and bongos, and kicked off a creative period that included the classic albums Rejuvenation (1974) and Fire On The Bayou (1975).  “Hey Pocky Way,” the monster track from Rejuvenation, kicks off with an Art Neville piano lick that virtually defines New Orleans music.


The original Meters

In 1976 George “Big Chief Jolly” Landry began recording an album of New Orleans Mardi Gras music with his Wild Tchoupitoulas “Indians” (a social group known for its elaborate costumes during Mardi Gras).  The one trouble was, the Tchoupitoulas weren’t musicians.  But Landry just happened to have a few nephews who were – they were all named Neville.  So the Meters served as the Tchoupitoulas rhythm section and for fun they invited brother Aaron Neville to sit in.  They covered “Hey Pocky Way” again (the Nevilles would also do it later).

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