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SOUL JAZZ RECORDS presents: NEW ORLEANS FUNK VOL. 3 – Two-Way-Pocky-Way, Gumbo Ya Ya and the Mardi Gras Mambo (2013)

[RATING: 5] Well here’s a somewhat unexpected addition to the Soul Jazz label’s benchmark-setting funk and soul New Orleans Funk compilation series. That’s ‘benchmark’, by the way, because for selection and sound quality it is peerless and ‘unexpected’ because frankly after two previous volumes (or three if you count 2001’s Soul Jazz comp. Saturday Night Fish Fry subtitled New Orleans Funk – and you most certainly should count it) you begin to wonder how much else there is that’s worth compiling from the Big Easy’s funk and soul era. Coincidentally (or not) Volume 3 is (considerably) longer-of-title and somewhat shorter-of-content than its predecessors weighing in at only eighteen tracks. Though in truth that’s only ‘short’ in comparison to its mammoth predecessors which all tipped the scales at more than twenty tracks.

Like their previous volumes you’re not just getting straight up funk and soul here – there’s also all manner of proto-funk. The Dixie Cups’ Two Way Poc-A-Way is a call-and-response Mardi Gras chant over percussion that reeks of bayou voodoo while Professor Longhair’s Go To The Mardi Gras is a frenzied rnb shuffle. The backbone of this release is nevertheless that distinctively raw New Orleans funk and soul sound though and Professor Longhair makes a second appearance with precisely that in the form of part 2 of his distinctive piano-kicking (he wasn’t a man to leave percussion to a mere drummer) whistler’s anthem Big Chief which includes a vocal. Lots of the other usual suspects turn up too. Betty Harris turns in an almost Tina-ish Trouble With My Lover, Lee Dorsey provides one of the highlights (the super mellow Little Baby), and Eldridge Holmes’ provides another with his version of If I Was A Carpenter where he narrowly avoids sounding like one because, despite doing ‘smooth,’ he’s unable to hide his fine soul rasp and the rhythm section provide a gently funked-up the rhythm.

Arguably there aren’t perhaps as many obvious dancefloor funky soul bangers as with Vol. 1 or Saturday Night Fish Fry or even as Vol. 2 but there’s certainly stuff to be going on with in that department (Tony Owens’ Got To Get My Baby Back Home, the Deacons Fagged Out or ‘Fess Longhair’s Big Chief Part 2) plus a healthy dose of slower but very dirty funk. Talking of which, if the Meters are absent in their own right, they’re credited as the backing band on the Willie West opener and their stamp is all over more than a few of the other tracks as well – Lee Dorsey’s What You Want for example. Make no mistake – this is exactly what we’ve come to expect from Soul Jazz – a serious funky soul document.

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