The Meters ‘Gettin’ Funkier All The Time: The Complete Josie / Reprise & Warner Recordings (1968-1977)’ 6CD (SoulMusic) 5/5

This definitive 6CD collection is essentially the best of The Meters, recorded between 1969 and 1976 including all the music from those first five albums on the Reprise and Josie record labels. Their unique funk and blues sound captured the essence of New Orleans and spread it throughout the world with a firm stamp of approval. To many, The Meters are considered to be the founding fathers of funk and through the years their incredible music has touched many generations and continues to inspire many who dip their tippi toes in the water.

The 1969 hits “Sophisticated Cissy” and “Cissy Strut” marked part of the beginning of a long line of incredible tracks over a 5-6 year period, sampled by many hip hop groups and producers over the years and through different generations including A Tribe Called Quest, Gangstarr, Main Source, DJ Krush, Flying Lotus to name a few. That debut album sparked a momentous step forward away from the New Orleans enclave spreading the funk at parties, clubs and bloc parties throughout America and further afield. DJ Kool Herc playing a Meters’ track next to say, James Brown, Sly and The Family Stone and an obscure proto-disco track with a heavy 2, 4 or 8 bar break was part of that continuation and inspiration. Collectors, DJs, producers, party goers and listeners worldwide acknowledge that definitive Meters hook and sound.

The Meters debut album, ‘Look-Ka, Py Py’, was a big success with the title track included in many DJs 50 best samples of all time. Each subsequent album up until the mid-1970s revealed a captivating mixture of funk and blues. The music continued with an energetic force after the album ‘Struttin’ adding a wider lens to their repertoire. Following their fourth album, ‘Cabbage Alley’, The Meters recorded and released ‘Rejuvenation’ which is considered by many to be their most rounded and essential album to date. It’s a classic that seemed to pay homage to New Orleans but from a distance with a deft touch and a new sense of direction which kept hold of that rooted signature sound, adding some punchy vocals and wider appeal. The album was high in many music polls of the top 500 greatest albums released.

The history of this native New Orleans band dates back to 1965 when keyboardist and vocalist Art Neville recruited bassist George Porter Jr., drummer Joseph ‘Zigaboo’ Modeliste and guitarist Leo Nocentelli to form The Meters. During those formative and most significant years between 1969- 1975 most of the albums were recorded in the New Orlean based Sea Saint studio, started and run by Allen Toussaint and Marshall E. Sehorn. The studio brought out a special sound and a sense of community which favoured many great musicians who happen to record at this legendary studio.

There are too many favourites on this collection and personal favourites differ for most people although the core recordings such as ‘Citty Strut’, ‘Look-Ka Py Py’, ‘Just Kissed My Baby’, ‘Handclapping Song’ and a few choice others rank high in many favoured lists. Some like the raw stripped-down funk of the first three albums whilst others opt for the music that arrived via the later ‘Rejuvenated’ album, which resonated throughout the hip hop and rare groove community. Tracks such as ‘Just Kissed My Baby’ were a firm favourite on the rare groove scene. Released in 1969, ‘Same Old Thing’ was a big hit with the early mainstay of hip hop producers including Mantronix, who used the track on the early classic ‘King Of The Beats’. In 2007 Speedometer added their own mark to the original with a heavy version that came out on Freestyle Records on a 7″. So many bands have covered The Meters’ early period of music so it’s worth mentioning a few tracks.

‘Cissy Strut’ is another of many Meters’ tracks that have been sampled and reinterpreted with enough identity to enhance and add something different. Check out the psychedelic funk version by Chilean group Los Masters, recorded in 1969 or the big band leaning version by The Willard Posey Reunion adding a Jack McDuff like touch in 1972.

The San Diego based collective, The Sure Fire Soul Ensemble, are definitely worth checking out and their 2016 version of ‘Here Comes The Meters’ is particularly solid and well worth a listen. Lloyd Charmers covered ‘Look-Ka Py Py’ in a Ska style back in 1970 and many other reggae acts have added a special note to tracks by the New Orleans funk masters over the years. In 2007 the Mocambo record label released a great 7″ steel band version of ‘Ease Back’ by The Bacao Rhythm & Steel Band; a Hamburg based group worth checking for other Meters’ material. The list could go on.

There’s so much great music to choose from and enjoy from this 6CD essential collection of music dedicated to the memory of the great Art Neville and his contribution to the music world. The reissue is produced by David Nathan with linear notes of great interest on the CD booklet courtesy of Charles Waring. The reissue is mastered and released via the SoulMusic record label via Cherry Red.

Mark Jones