Various Artists

Get Low Down!: The Soul of New Orleans, '65-'67

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Although it wasn't the most renowned phase of his career, in the mid-'60s Allen Toussaint did a great deal of arranging, producing, and songwriting for the Sansu label. This double CD has 50 songs that came out on Sansu, and occasionally on Bell and Tou-Sea, during that era, including four previously unreleased tracks. Of all these tunes, just two, Lee Dorsey's "Ride Your Pony" and "Holy Cow," were sizable national hits, and indeed other than Dorsey none of the performers are that famed, though Benny Spellman, Betty Harris, Earl King, and Art Neville all made some noted marks on the R&B scene. This is the sound of early New Orleans rock and R&B turning into full-fledged soul music, although New Orleans soul would never became as successful and identifiable a brand as Detroit, Memphis, Philadelphia, or New York soul. While it's fairly strong stuff with a distinctively New Orleans pre-funk beat and some bluesy licks, it lacks the classic melodies and hooks of the best 1960s soul, and there's some sameyness to much of the material, a little over half of which was penned by Toussaint. It does much to fill in an under-documented part of New Orleans rock history, though, since many of these releases, by such obscure singers as Curly Moore, Eldridge Holmes, Diamond Joe, and Willie Harper, have rarely or never been reissued. While it might seem that Dorsey and Harris are under-represented by this compilation (with just two songs each), note that each is well represented by single-artist anthologies should you want to take a deeper dive.

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