Wardell Quezergue

Strung Out

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This oft-delayed collection of New Orleans songwriter, producer, and arranger Wardell Quezergue's early-'70s productions from Malaco Studios in Jackson, MS, is well worth the wait. It features 20 (eight of them previously unreleased) magnificent ballads that are a fluid mix of New Orleans R&B and deep Southern soul, each track crafted to an atmospheric perfection by Quezergue's sharp and detailed production. This skill in the studio led to Quezergue being dubbed "the Creole Beethoven" by Allen Toussaint, the New Orleans producer whose work runs most parallel to Quezergue's, and the tracks presented here are all the evidence anyone might need to test the validity of Toussaint's assessment. Quezergue has made classic recordings with the likes of Fats Domino, Professor Longhair, Dr. John, Aaron Neville, B.B. King, and the Staple Singers, but the tracks collected on Strung Out are generally by less well-known artists, although that doesn't make them lesser recordings. There is so much to marvel at here. The elegant opening track, C.P. Love's "I Found All These Things," written by Joe Brussard and released on Chimneyville Records in 1971, features an amazingly lush string arrangement by Quezergue, and perhaps even more amazing is that the song wasn't particularly successful on the charts. King Floyd's "Handle with Care," a hushed and powerful ballad with a marvelously blended string and horn section, originally released on Chimneyville in 1974, is another hidden gem, as is Hank Sample's impressive "Got to Find the Nerve," a Malaco 45. The bright and impeccably balanced "Perfect Love Affair" by Joe Johnson, a Malaco release that was licensed to GSF Records in 1973, also wasn't a hit, although it darn well should have been. Then there's the astounding "Asking for the Truth" by Reuben Bell, initially released on Alarm Records, which is arguably the most striking cut here. It wasn't a hit either, although it practically defines the concept of deep soul. The quality of these tracks is striking, each one a carefully nuanced creation, and while it might be difficult to put into words exactly what Quezergue is doing, one begins to recognize a certain tone and feel to these productions. They fall together in a rich, hushed suite, as ballad after ballad unfolds like brilliantly arranged hits from a soulful alternate universe. Such quality shouldn't have to wait 30-plus years to be appreciated.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
feat: C.P. Love
2 3:32
3 3:49
4 2:27
feat: Elliot Small
6 2:51
7 3:58
feat: Chuck Brooks
feat: Barons
feat: Jewel Bass
feat: Hank Sample
12 3:44
feat: Joe Johnson
feat: Reuben Bell
16 2:56
17 3:43
feat: The Enticers
feat: Mighty Sam
20 3:18
blue highlight denotes track pick