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The Original Funkmasters

The Meters

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Album Review

An absolutely essential CD to own if you want the answer to the burning question "Where does funk come from?" In the very late '60s and early '70s, the mighty quartet of Art Neville (keyboards), Leo Nocentelli (guitar), George Porter, Jr. (bass), and Joseph "Zigaboo" Modiste (drums) delivered a groovy gumbo of funky soul that kept the New Orleans club scene so famous. Most of the tracks here were recorded by the Meters over a three-year period, when both the R&B and pop charts made room for them in their rosters (due to their early 1969 hit, "Sophisticated Cissy"). This 1992 compilation from Instant Records showcases the live energy of the band, with songs like "Funky Miracle" and "Live Wire," plus the late-night chill-out of "Ease Back" and the let's-close-up-for-the-night "Stormy," a beautiful and melancholy bit of R&B to catch your breath before the funkmasters take it away from you again. These songs are a little older and limited in recording technology (take note of the occasional extreme stereo separation), but in some ways this vintage sound makes The Original Funkmasters one of the best recordings to own, compared to the cleaner and flatter Neville Brothers albums that absorbed Meters members and continued making records for the next two decades. Fans of the more recent acid jazz movement or appreciators of hip-hop take note: This is the music that your favorite acts sample and imitate. This is tight, organic musicianship performed by actual musicians (not programmers or DJs), and the best that money can buy. So by all means do.

Biography

Formed: 1966 in New Orleans, LA

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

The Meters defined New Orleans funk, not only on their own recordings, but also as the backing band for numerous artists, including many produced by Allen Toussaint. Where the funk of Sly Stone and James Brown was wild, careening, and determinedly urban, the Meters were down-home and earthy. Nearly all of their own recordings were instrumentals, putting the emphasis on the organic and complex rhythms. The syncopated, layered percussion intertwined with the gritty grooves of the guitar and organ,...
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