Various Artists

The Cosimo Matassa Story

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Although he's far from a household name, it's hard to imagine the existence of New Orleans R&B without Cosimo Matassa. As owner and engineer at J&M Studios, housed in a reworked grocery store on Rampart Street, Matassa saw the birth of R&B, rock & roll, and soul pass through his doors between 1945 and 1956, and he was responsible for the early hits of Fats Domino, Little Richard, and many others during his tenure there. This amazing four-disc, 120-track box tells that story, and it is filled with marvelous recordings that burst with energy and vitality. There's so much to be astounded at here, and not just the steady rhythmic warmth of the Fats Domino sides or the ferocious energy that crackles from each and every Little Richard track ("Tutti Frutti," "Long Tall Sally," "Rip It Up," "Ready Teddy," "The Girl Can't Help It," "Heebie Jeebies"). There's also Smiley Lewis' piano and horn rendition of "Don't Jive Me" (not to mention his original version of "I Hear You Knocking"), Lloyd Price's sturdy "Lawdy Miss Clawdy," Dave Bartholomew's wry treatise on barroom crime, "Who Drank My Beer While I Was in the Rear," and Clarence Garlow's easy rolling "New Bon Ton Roulay." There's Professor Longhair's classic "Tipitina," Sugar Boy & His Cane Cutters' timeless "Jock-A-Mo," the Hawks' bright and infectious "It's Too Late Now" and Wee Willie Wayne's whistle and percussion gem, "Travelin' Mood." Then there's Huey "Piano" Smith's delightfully clanging and steamrolling "Everybody's Whalin'," Clarence "Frogman" Henry's goofy and immortal "Ain't Got No Home" and Earl King's crisply rocking "You Can Fly High." It all adds up to a truly impressive legacy, and again, it's impossible to imagine New Orleans R&B without the hand of Cosimo Matassa upon it. Matassa eventually had three studios in New Orleans, including Jazz City Studio on Camp Street, as well as a record pressing plant called Superior Plastic, and the record label he started in the late '50s, Rex Records. Later still he helped set up Sea-Saint Studio. This impressive and exhaustive set tells his story, and it rocks like it means to change the world. Truth is, the sides that Matassa recorded and engineered some 50 odd years ago have already changed the world many times over. Most of us just didn't know it.

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Track Listing - Disc 2

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Track Listing - Disc 3

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Track Listing - Disc 4

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