Earl King

New Orleans Blues

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Recorded at Sea-Saint Studios in 1972 with Allen Toussaint producing and the Meters also on board, New Orleans Blues is somewhat of a lost album for Crescent City singer and guitarist Earl King. The project was originally supposed to be released on Atlantic Records but never materialized, and only the wonderfully ragged and funky "Street Parade" officially saw the light of day as a single on Toussaint's Kansu label. It's a shame the album never appeared, because the combination of King and Toussaint is pure dynamite, with Toussaint's trademark horn charts pulling the best from King's expressive voice and elegant guitar work. Track after track is marvelous, stopping just short of funk and absolutely dripping with New Orleans soul. King revisits two of his older hits, "A Mother's Love," which he originally recorded for Specialty Records in 1954, and "Mama and Papa," which he cut in 1962 for Imperial Records, and in both cases the songs are recast and redefined by Toussaint's sympathetic, atmospheric production. "Fallin'" has an impressive emotional balance, while the odd "Medieval Days" shows King could handle complicated narrative material with ease, although he is at his best on powerfully soulful ballads like "You Make Me Feel Good," the closing track here. Given the history of these sessions, it is remarkable to hear how well it all fits together, and it is difficult to imagine why Atlantic didn't release it at the time. King never sounded better than he did at these sessions, and that's saying something.

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