...a perfect storm when it comes to reissues. This box set is musically exciting, a complete representation of its subject matter, and just plain fun to listen.
Various Artists Doctors, Professors, Kings and Queens: The Big Ol' Box of New Orleans Shout!Factory 2004
Shout Factory's four-CD box set Doctors, Professors, King and Queens: The Big Ol' Box of New Orleans represents a perfect storm when it comes to reissues. This box set is musically exciting, a complete representation of its subject matter, and just plain fun to listen. Not only that, it fulfills a vacuum in the market, because until this collection, one would think that there hasn't been any new recording of music in New Orleans since the Meters in the early 1970's. In fact, New Orleans has been just as vibrant, diverse and productive during each and every era of recording from 1923-2004 and this collection proves it!
The collection takes a major risk that pays off, of not thematically organizing each of the four compact discs in this collection. Not bowing to the obvious track order solution of chronological order or by genre, the set weaves effortlessly from track to track without any other theme than great performance after great performance. Some ebb and flow exists between the more traditional to the more up- tempo, but it works and works brilliantly.
The package includes eighty-five recordings and a top of the line eighty-plus page book that includes beautiful photographs and insightful essay about the city and each artist and their recordings and what we at the Vault love the most detailed liner notes and credits. The Vault appreciates when we know who each instrumentalist is, the producer, engineer, studio and city, the date of the recording, the original record it was released on and the original recording company. It is this attention to detail that makes a good boxset an excellent boxset.
The set kicks off with current New Orleans jazz ambassador and great chef, Kermit Ruffins informing us of his wish "Drop Me Off in New Orleans." From there the set visits recordings from different era and styles.
The first category of artists included comes from those that helped define dawn of the recording industry and jazz. Included are some of New Orleans favorite sons, Louis Armstrong (with the Hot Seven on "Potato Head Blues" and with his Dixieland Seven on the final track "Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans?"), Jellyroll Morton, Sidney Bechet and His New Orleans Feet Warmers and Kid Ory's Creole Jazz Band. All four and their various sidemen brought the sounds of the Crescent City out for the rest of the world to hear, appreciate and emulate.
The next major era represented comes from the independent record label explosion in the late 1940's and 1950's when New Orleans was a hot bed for so much recording, especially in the fields of Rhythm and Blues, Blues and Rock and Roll. This is where a tremendous breadth of styles and artists are well documented (from jazz to R&B, from Cajun to rock and roll) in this collection. Artists with some major national hits included are Fats Domino, Clarence "Frogman" Henry, Ernie K-Doe, Huey "Piano" Smith, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Al Johnson, Frankie Ford, Chris Kenner, Little Richard, Eddie Bo, and Lloyd Price. Here the boxset focuses on these artists' big hits, except for Little Richard (who while not from New Orleans, developed his career and recorded his major hits within the city limits), whose "Rip It Up" represent his New Orleans feel better than perhaps "Tutti Frutti" or "Good Golly, Miss Molly." Other artists of this era include The Hawketts, George Lewis' Ragtime Band, Shirley & Lee, Smiley Lewis and Benny Spellman.
Another set of artists and their recordings are culminated from the timeless performers that are not defined by hits, eras or genres that are/were the cornerstone of the Crescent City. The types of performers that as soon as you hear their name, images of the sites, sounds and smells (you can almost smell the jambalaya or pot of crawfish boiling) of the Big Easy come to mind. This category includes Professor Longhair, James Booker, Dr. John, Allan Toussaint, Kermit Ruffins, Rebirth Brass Band, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, The Meters, Irma Thomas, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, The Neville Brothers, Dave Bartholomew, The Wild Magnolias, Ellis Marsalis and Pete Fountain.
Also well represented here are today's lifeblood of the New Orleans scene that meld the funk and soul of yesteryear with the sounds from all over. These modern day New Orleans musical ambassadors include the super funky Galactic, Swedish roots rocker Anders Osborne, blues pianist all-star Marcia Ball, all star jam band The Radiators, jazz young lion James Andrews, brass band music for the new millennium from Coolbone, the soulful and excellent songwriting of Mem Shannon (probably the funniest song on the album, his take on the proliferation on our streets of SUV's) and the musical melting pot sounds of The New Orleans Klezmer All-Stars.
While not hailing from the city limits of New Orleans, this collection pays serious attention to the sounds that come from a two-hour trip west of New Orleans to Southwest Louisiana; Cajun and Zydeco music. Yes, the boxset revolves around the music that came from within the Big Easy, but there is no doubt that the music, culture and cuisine from Cajun and Creole country are as part of the fabric of New Orleans than anything else. Therefore including music from artists such as Clifton Chenier, Beausoleil, Lil Queenie, Boozoo Chavis, Geno Delafose, Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys, Beau Jocque and the Zydeco Hi-Rollers (with the great 'Give Him Cornbread'), Bruce Daigrepont and The Savoy-Doucet Cajun Band completes the picture of the musical scene of New Orleans.
While I could spend time pointing out some artists that the Vault feels deserves placement in the collection (Ok, for fun, we'll throw in a few: Los Hombres Caliente, King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band, the Subdudes, Better Than Ezra, Victoria Williams (whose recent record has a stellar version of "Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans?"), Rockin Sidney, Keith Frank and the Soileau Zydeco Band, Tab Benoit, Juvenile, The Balfa Brothers, Astral Project, Nicholas Payton, Amede Ardoin, and the list goes on and should include the "Swamp Pop" genre). The Vault could go on, but this just illustrates the point that there is so much great music and artists that call New Orleans home and to include them all would be a cumbersome twenty disc collection, which could lose the impact and flavor this boxset so excellently achieves.
The Vault cannot stress enough the great feel and class this collection has and the fact it encompasses so many styles, genres and eras and it flows so well from beginning to end - we have no higher praise. Maybe, the great folks at Shout Factory are just setting us up for an addendum release or a sequel; if that's the case bring them on, we love it!
Welcome to New Orleans - Galactic, Theryl DeClouet
Drop Me Off in New Orleans - Kermit Ruffins
I'm Walkin' - Fats Domino
Iko Iko - Dr. John
Potato Head Blues - Armstrong, Louis & His Hot Seven
My Darlin' New Orleans - Lil' Queenie, Percolators
Para Donde Vas (Where Are You Going) - Iguanas
Meet the Boyz on the Battlefront - Anders Osborne, Boudreaux, "Big Chief" Monk
Ain't Got No Home - Henry, Clarence "Frogman"
Feel Like Funkin' It Up - Rebirth Brass Band
Zydeco Gris-Gris - Beausoleil
Mother-In-Law - Ernie K-Doe
That's Enough of That Stuff - Marcia Ball
Confidential - Radiators
Hey Pocky A-Way - Meters
I Thought I Heard Buddy Bolden Say Jelly Roll MOrton
Foot of Canal Street - Paul Sanchez
Down in Honky Tonk Town [live] - Vernel Bagneris
Rocking Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu - Huey "Piano" Smith
More Hipper - Jon Cleary
Release Me - Johnny Adams
Preachin' Blues - Bechet, Sidney & His New Orleans Feet Warmers
Jambalaya [live] - Clifton Chenier
Dog Days - Leigh Harris
No City Like New Orleans - Earl King
Salée Dames, Bon Jour - Don Vappie, Creole Jazz Serenaders
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