NEW Orleans celebrated the last day of Mardi Gras earlier this week on Fat Tuesday, Feb. 21.
Musically the city never takes a break and keeps the creative juices flowing 365 days a year. Here are 10 essential albums made by New Orleans musicians over the last century:
1. Wild Tchoupitoulas - Wild Tchoupitoulas (Mango Records, 1976)
A New Orleans Mardi Gras "Indian tribe" the Wild Tchoupitoulas featuring vocals by George Landry ("Big Chief Jolly") backed up by The Meters with production from Allen Toussaint at Sea-Saint Recording Studios in New Orleans. Pure street funk genius from start to finish.
2. The Meters - Rejuvenation (Reprise Records, 1974)
Another Sea-Saint Studio production featuring the Meters working with Allen Toussaint. This one just drips with funk. Lowell George plays uncredited slide guitar on "Just Kissed My Baby."
3. Jelly Roll Morton - The Complete Library of Congress Recordings (Rounder Records: recording date 1938, released 2005)
Jelly Roll on a roll with musicologist Alan Lomax in Washington, D.C. Rounder Records release (which won two Grammy Awards in 2006 for Best Historical Album and Best Album Notes) features 128 tracks of music and stories over eight CDs.
4. Professor Longhair - New Orleans Piano (Atlantic 1972)
Professor Longhair (Dec.19, 1918 - Jan. 30, 1980; born Henry Roeland Byrd) taught himself to play a piano with missing keys or so the story goes. Lots of "Latin tinges" and street blues boogie woogie in his inimitable style. New Orleans Piano collects sides recorded between 1949 and 1953 and released in album form in 1972 on Atlantic Records.
5. Louis Armstrong - Complete Hot Five and Hot Seven Recordings (Columbia 2000)
The Hot Five was Louis Armstrong's first jazz recording band led under his own name in 1925. The Hot Seven followed soon after in1927. All of the 86 tracks included in this four-disc box set were recorded at Okeh Records in Chicago.
6. Lee Dorsey - Yes We Can (Polydor 1970)
Like many on the New Orleans music scene Lee Dorsey held two jobs and he had a car repair business to fall back on when times were lean. Musically he worked with producer Allen Toussaint and recorded his early singles for the local labels Amy and Fury in the '60s. This gem came out on Polydor in 1970 and even though it gave the collaboration wider distribution than they were used to most of the Toussaint-penned tracks were hits for other artists (such as The Pointer Sisters and Robert Palmer). You get to hear them here first.
7. Various Artists - New Orleans Funk 2: The Original Sound of Funk Vol. 2 (Soul Jazz Records 2008)
There is also a Vol. 1 on Soul Jazz which is equally sublime but some of the tracks on that one are also found on other albums on this list. Vol. 2 goes deeper into the funk archives and comes up with many obscure gems.
8. Dr. John - Gris-Gris (Atco 1968)
Debut album from Dr. John (Mac Rebennack). Recorded at Gold Star Studios in L.A. with producer Harold Battiste and New Orleans musicians using studio time originally booked for a Sonny & Cher session. Authentic psychedelic voodoo.
9. Little Richard - Here's Little Richard (Specialty Records 1957)
Debut album from Little Richard, released on March 1957 featuring 12 tracks including six number one hits recorded in the previous year. The Beatles were all over this one.
10. Various Artists - Instant and Minit Story (The Definitive History: From the Golden Age of New Orleans R&B (Charly Records UK 2005)
A lot of New Orleans music originally came out on hard-to-find 45 rpm seveninchers. This three-disc set of classic material takes care of that.
11. King Biscuit Boy (Epic 1974)
Bonus disc. Canadian bluesman King Biscuit Boy went down to New Orleans to work with Allen Toussaint in the early '70s and this is what they came up with. Brilliant. Oh yes, and that's The Meters backing him up.
For more on New Orleans music culture visit www.neworleansonline.com/ neworleans/music/