Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Quintron "Sucre Du Sauvage," "Live at third Man Records," 9th Ward Marching Band "sneakin up the streets," Ernie K-Doe - The R&B Emperor of New Orleans by Ben Sandmel

(Goner/Rhinestone Records/Third Man Records/The Historic new Orleans Collection) Despite Quintron and Pussycat's now long history of music making, party starting and culture curating, the last few years have proven that their artistic careers have yet to plateau as their magic keeps getting magicker! Recorded during a 3 month residency in the New Orleans Museum of Art, "Sucre du Sauvage" is simply the greatest thing Mr. Q has ever done. The double LP features two sides of pristinely murky dance music that rewrites the rules of dance music. "Ring the Alarm" is a cheerleaders-in-a-bus-plummeting-downhill-with-no-breaks-but-keeping-up-their-spirits-up breakdown! Miss Pussycat gets jungle puppet happy on "Banana Beat!" The title track should feature the warning "May Cause Uncontrollable Wiggles! "All Night Right of Way" sounds better than any radio song out right now! Plus there's a heartbreaking tale of a Zolar X experience gone wrong! The second LP features experimental, atmospheric field recordings, meanderings, and twiddlings that make his prior frog sounds LP seem like "Bitches Brew." That said, after the audio aesthetic workout of the prior 24 inches of music this is the perfect mental palette cleanser and though I may have forgotten I've had this disc on in the background a few times during the scores of listens of enjoyed of the entire double album, I've never considered turning these spare explorations off.
Complimenting that masterwork is a live album recorded last year at Third Man Records' modest concert space in Nashville. Despite the room being dry, the crowd is drunk on fantastic sounds a Q & P, along with guest stars King Louie and the Oblivians, destroy music city. Opening with a C&W tribute ("Rhinestone Cowboy") the set becomes a party untethered to any particular time or space, including greatest hits ("Place Unknown," one of the best dance songs of the Century, so far), "Banana Beat," and the reflective "I'm Not Good Enough," which I don't think I've ever heard before, but I sure love it now. Pussycat's presence is particular precious this time out, helping people find their sunglasses between songs and making set change suggestions. Nothing can replace the experience of seeing this act live, but a nice live LP ain't a bad deal.
The other relatively recent Quintron-related LP which we are very excited about is the audio documentation of Quintron and Pussycat’s carnival-season second line group, The 9th Ward Marching Band, which we have had the thrill of seeing perform on Mardi Gars a couple of times. What makes this album such a joy is that the execution of hot hits by Blue Oyster Cult, Ozzy, Thin Lizzy, Sam the Sham, and (of course) Ernie K-Doe is done with tremendous skill by the army of hornblowers and drum pounders, yet there’s still a trace element of that inimitable beauty one gets when hearing a grade school band sublimely construct a recognizable song by getting every part in the vague vicinity of right, but not actually right at all. The 9WMB never sounds off key or out of sync, but there’s always a youthful, imperfect energy in the air that hints that a glorious mistake is possible, which is what awesome amateur orchestras are all about. Not to act like sophistication is alien to the krew: the transition from the Boxtops “The Letter” (Alex Chilton was a New Orleans semi-presence for years) to Mike Oldfield’s creepy “Tubular Bells” to “House of the Rising Sun,” to  a noise breakdown is nothing short of street-walking genius with a soul full of napalm. 
But despite the genuine magic of these fabulous LPs, the Q &P appearance that most hit me over the last year was a brief cameo in Lee Sandmel's glorious coffee-table book tribute to the late, great Ernie K-Doe (see our review from the local paper). Covering the R&B eccentric's career from 1950s funkiness to 1960s soul, to his 21st Century position atop his throne in his Mother-In-Law Lounge castle (to beyond, there's a section on his afterlife as a always-on-the-scene mannequin carried by his widow Antoinette after he died) the book is exquisitely researched, written in a captivating tone, and features hundreds of thrilling images, with K-Doe seemingly becoming more majestic and powerful every year. Including this book here with reviews of Quintron's LPs surely will not please Mr. Q, as his brief quotes in the book clearly (and accurately) state that his generation's championing of K-Doe is nowhere near as interesting as the captivating personality, joyful music, and well earned mythos of the the R&B Emperor himself. That said, the photo of a fabulously creepy Q&P/K-Doe & Antoinette pool party may be the wildest image in a book of photos of a man whose i.d. photo is probably wilder than any image on Facebook. There are a thousand things that make this book great, but one of the most important is that it shows how older generations of visionaries can provide inspiration and blueprints for developing artists who refuse to fit into the cookie cutter shapes the music industry celebrates. In fifty years I hope my kids dig the book some youngster will make about Quintron and Pussycat's lengthy, bizarre, ever more exciting career.

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