Some people swear Professor Longhair (19181980) was at the very first New Orleans Mardi Gras back in 1699. However, the truth is that he probably started boppin' and hoppin' at the annual celebration a few years after World War I. He kept going until he passed in 1980 and he experienced over a half century of catching beads, chasing rolling doubloons and franticly waving the gold, green and purple. Oh, the eerie torchlight parades, opulent floats and boisterous parties he must have seen and music he absorbed. It all comes to life with the double disc collection of archival songs, The Bach of Rock.
The generous set is jam packed with three dozen tracks. Almost all the Crescent City favorites are invited to the party: "Mardi Gras in New Orleans" (both a spry vocal version and a ragtime flavored instrumental version), "Tipitina," "Big Chief," "Jambalaya," as well as more instrumentals such as "Boyd's Bounce" and "Rum and Coca Cola." Longhair's buoyant invitation to "come to the party" leads the way while his ever-present vibrant rent-party piano keeps the tempoand everyoneon their toes. There's street tradition, celebratory flair, gritty funk and more as boogie, jump R&B, rumba, Cuban rhythms and other styles keep bursting from the disc. The Professor knowingly extracts the rich essence from various sources, swirls them together and adds a few exuberant whoops and cheers. There's even a touch of his patented whistling as well as an occasional saxophonist showing up.
Since the cuts for this collection have been culled from various recording sessions between the very late 1940s and the 1970s (both looser live versions and produced cuts from studios), the sound drifts from professional grade to borderline bootleg. While most of the selections sound fine, a few muddy mixes sneak into the festivities now and then. The sound quality on many of Longhair's other albums are often superior. But Longhair is so revered that it's not a question of which disc to seek out since the answer is usually "any of them.'
The liner notes are hit and miss. Points for quoting an ardent fan stating that the song "Mardi Gras in New Orleans" is a National Anthem but demerits since it appears the author never saw Longhair perform in person. There are still plenty of people around who will forever treasure when they saw him rally an audience in New Orleans Professor Longhair was there in the beginning and was a memorable one-of-a-kind.
Bald Head, Mardi Gras In New Orleans, Boyd's Bounce, Bye Bye Baby, East St. Louis Baby, Professor
Boogie, Tipitina, Big Chief, Jambalaya, Got My Mojo Workin', How Long Has That Train Been Gone, Rum &
Cola, Doin' It, Hey Now Baby, Her Mind Is Gone, Whole Lotta Lovin', Woke Up This Morning, Auld Lang
Gras In New Orleans (inst.,) Tell Me Pretty Baby, Mess Around, Every Day I Have The Blues, I'm Movin' On,
Me, Gone So Long, Stagger Lee, Stompin' With Fess, Is Everything Alright, Junko Partner, Rockin'
Lovely Lady, She Walked Right In, Since I Lost My Baby, Untitled (inst.,) Every Day I Have The Blues (inst.)