Friday, September 9, 2011

Howchie's Muso-Nerd Record Club: #1

Bobby Charles - eponymous
As obscurities go, this one's pretty well known. It's a 1970 effort cut in Woodstock around 1970 with The Band and other habitues of the area. I may have owned it once but sold it in a great 80's vinyl sell off prompted by wife #2 aka The Junkie. I dumped lots I regret in those heady post punk days.
"Bobby Charles" has a fiercesome rep for (white) funky, swamptastic lassitude. Rhino Handmade is selling some fancy expensive version but you can get straight versions NEW for $5 and change. At some point I think Andy Cabic from Vetiver -- a BIG fan -- was going to pen liner notes for an indie re-issue a couple years back and was super stoked. But clearly WEA thought better of licensing it.
While knowing about this record, vaguely, since release, I've never had a super yen for it. But when I got the "Cosimo Matassa Story" box (a GREAT deal - TONS of superb, dirty-ass music for super CHEAP -- see earlier blog entry), Bobby got some major shout outs in the liner notes. And the man DID have some impressive credits i.e. writing "Walking To New Orleans" for Fats Domino and some other early R&B hits. So my curiousity was picqued and as I like to start at the beginning grabbed "After A While, Crocodile -- The 50's Anthology."
So this comprises Bobby's own recordings for Chess and Imperial (two major boosters of New Orleans music back in the 50's) and it's pretty prime stuff. Bobby's an incisive writer, effortlessly knocking out instantly catchy riffs and catch-phrases. His vocals tuneful but with a nice raw edge (you can understand why Leonard Chess was shocked, upon meeting him, to find out he wasn't African American). And most of these sides were cut at Cosimo Matassa's with the top players from Paul Gayten and Dave Bartholemew's bands backing him up. So you shouldn't be shocked that this sounds like archetypal R&B and early rock 'n' roll coz these musicians in fact MINTED the archetypes as they worked out the arrangements and delivered the solos and riffs for Fats Domino, Little Richard, Professor Longhair as well as for local heroes and heroines who may not have got heard far outside of their home turf but the artists who did hear em grabbed onto that vocabulary and spread it far and wide.

I know that "Bobby Charles" WON'T sound like THAT but I'm betting his talent was equally applicable to other stylistic conventions and supporting casts. We'll see in a week or two!

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