Cyril Neville - "Gossip" (New Orleans Funk, Vol. 2)
By now, you should be familiar with UK’s heppest imprimatur Soul Jazz and all its idiosyncrasies both good and bad. With their wide-eared globetrotting and color wheel schema doubles as both music-snob and design student-baiting, they immediately catch your attention from the shelves of any record store. And yet for all of the aesthetic pleasures offered, the comps themselves are intermittent at best. For every solid entry, one must suffer through promising but ultimately underwhelming comps like Box of Dub, Hustle!, D.I.Y., The Sexual Life of Savages, and Soul Gospel, to name but a few stinkers. Their greatest successes hinge on simply digging into ground so fertile that one couldn’t help but come away with gold, as is the case with A Tom Moulton Mix, their Tropicalia and Brazil ’70 sets, and of course, their overviews of New Orleans pop emanating from the studios of Cossimo Matassa or the pen of Allen Toussaint and others from that Fertile Crescent City.
And so we have the second entry of New Orleans Funk. Where it differs from their Saturday Night Fish Fry, one would be hard-pressed to tell. What’s frustrating is that where Soul Jazz’s presentation always hints at definitive one-disc catch-alls, licensing laissez-faire and whatnot guarantees giant mind-the-gaps. And that still doesn’t excuse them from oft-times presenting poorly paced running orders, to where it’s exhausting just to get all the way through a disc that should effortlessly soundtrack a soul dance party with the push of one button.
Where Soul Jazz grows infuriating is when the label can’t spell-check their own work (Cossimo Matasssa?), much less provide info that coincides with the disc’s running order, much less properly capitalize song titles, much less handily divulge year of recording or players, much less even have an entry for Johnny Moore’s “Haven’t I Been Good to You.” Or take track 22, which the packaging tells us is Warren Lee’s “Funky Bell.” Of course, listening to the song, you’ll know it’s actually titled “Funky Belly.”
While it might be critically facile to summarize this comp with a smug “style over substance” tag, the type of music that was oozing out of New Orleans from the late ’50s on through the ’70s is simply unfuckwithable. Ageless and raucous, tracks by the likes of the Nevilles (Cyril and Art) or Benny Spellman’s Who-covered “Fortune Teller” would sound stellar and life-affirming even if it was packaged in a used diaper. The Meters’ “Chicken Strut” is a no-brainer (or is that bird-brainer?), Teflon funk replete with squawking yardbird chorus, while the drum sound on Lee Dorsey’s “Four Corners” and Betty Harris’s “12 Red Roses” booms right against your pineal gland and ass bone simultaneously. For all the slapdash Soul Jazz work on glaring display here, the music itself still echoes that Eddie Bo adage: “If It’s Good to You (It’s Good for You).”