Staff Top 10
Top Ten New Orleans Funk Jams

unk means shit without soul. Sure, bang about on the off-beats all you want, but if you’re not actually singing some of that sweet-loving over the top, or a voice that sounds like the littlest death of all, we really don’t care. This is why 70s funk musicians are always getting arrested for spousal abuse: not enough soul.

Not so the artists of New Orleans’ thriving funk scene during the 60s and early 70s, who took the sounds that filtered through the port town from the West Indies, Africa, Haiti and France and weaved them into an entrancing gumbo that’s excellent for dancing. Lee Dorsey, Allen Toussaint, The Meters, Dr John, Betty Harris… none of this lot are going to beat the fuck out of their lover. Their lover might dog them, but they’ll carry on regardless, singing songs of heartbreak whilst they do the washing up. And when their lover comes back to them… it’s time to dance. The ten songs here all make us want to either cry, hit the dance floor, or, on more than one occasion, both.

Oh, and if you want to know why “Lady Marmalade”, the most famous New Orleans funk track, isn’t on here, we left it off because it’s fucking shite.

10. Bobby and the Heavyweights – “Soul Train”
Whatever arguments about who or what needed placing at numbers one to nine, only one track could come in at #10. Step forward Bobby and the Heavyweights. The entire song is production line, textbook New Orleans funk. A few dance instructions, off-beats, a nice shuffle drum beat… and then all of a sudden, Bobby goes Enola Gay on us, and drops the bomb. The chorus sees the drums speed up, Bobby inject neat emotion into his voice, and… the effect is equivalent to how early French cinemagoers must have felt seeing the train come towards them on the first demonstration of film. Petrifying, yet amazing. [DP]

9. Ernie & The Top Notes – “Dap Walk”
Sounding like a less hysterical James Brown, Ernie begins his sermon with the energetic assertion to his brothers, “hey get up, brothers! Don’t sit there with your head hanging down! Hey get up brothers, I know the ghetto’ve got you down” before a bassline that’s as slinky and dangerous as any bayou snake rolls into life, the brass hits in like some royal sennet and Ernie finishes by demanding that we “do any dance that’s groovy to you!” Like much of the funk and disco of a growingly-troubled Africa in the late 60s and early 70s (those funky drums owe more to Orchestra Super Mazembe than they do The Funk Brothers), not to mention the joyous-yet-resolute work of Curtis Mayfield (think “Move On Up”), “Dap Walk” is a call to solidarity, positivity and hope that is delivered in such an irresistible way you can’t help but take notice. [CB]

8. Inell Young – “The Next Ball Game”
An obscure choice, but a great one nonetheless. Only 128 Google results are returned for “Inell Young”, and one of them describes her as “wailing femme soul”. It’s a good description. Forget the so-called “divas of soul”, nine-times out of ten it’s just saccharine-sickly crap made for vodka bars and KFC adverts. Here, Inell hits notes like De La Hoya, voice fluttering all over the place, the horns so close to her vocals that it sounds like the entire band recorded inside a phone booth. The lyrics are nearly indecipherable. Something’s going to happen at the next ball game, apparently. If Inell’s there, it’s gotta be worth turning up. [DP]

7. Dr John – “Mama Roux”
A voodoo trance of a slo-funk jam from his masterwork Gris-Gris, Dr John weaves his tale of a Southern “queen of the little red, white and blue” and the medicine man with the creepiest, gloopiest organ you’ve ever heard. Mirroring the people beating their pots and pans to scare off spooks and “spy boys” he describes in his horizontal growl, the drums and percussion clang and rattle in the background like a restaurant trolley car going over Mardi Gras beads. Unfortunately for the Dr and his patients (and their patience) the voodoo power diminished quickly after Gris-Gris, leaving it and “Mama Roux” his outstanding creepy legacy. [CB]

6. Chuck Carbo – “Can I Be Your Squeeze”
This song is like a soul version of what happens to Looney Tunes characters when they see a hot chick. You know, eyes on stalks, tongue rolling out like red carpet, alarm-clock heart attacks and howling wolf noises. Following the scattershot groove of a funky drummer funkier than asafoetida cheese wrapped in gym socks, Carbo begins his 2:30minute come-on line with a demented “oooooooh-wee! Look what I see!” before his rolling band carry his feet across the street to pester what he sees, a “little sister” he plans to make his own. As if he wasn’t enough to frighten the poor girl into submission, along come five of his mates—and even another sister who, presumably, loves sisters—to sing it at her (not to her) as well. She’s probably in therapy these days – that is, if she survived the mother of all lovin’ sessions he opened up on her ass. [CB]

5. Aaron Neville – “Hercules”
Yeah, that Aaron Neville. No, I had no idea either. Nowadays, just another chocolate box soulster. For a few years in the mid 60s though… few could touch him. Coming across like his girl’s just left him, you can almost hear him kick the stones around off the floor as he doesn’t so much sing as mumble this song into his collar. This is basically the great lost Curtis Mayfield track. “If you’re not gonna help, just hurt/ Then pass me by”. And then he went and sang that one song with Linda Rondstadt. Well down Aaron. [DP]

4. The Meters – “Just Kissed My Baby”
There is just no competition. This is the funkiest song ever. Simultaneously wound tighter than a pressure-proof Rolex and yet remaining looser than Lincoln’s teeth, “Just Kissed My Baby” is a behemoth. It grows in stature and groove like some unstoppable force of funk. You… must… give… in…. [CB]

3. Ernie K Doe – “Here Come The Girls”
The intro is a military drumbeat, as if the girls are goose-stepping into town. Ernie doesn’t care though, he sounds as happy as a musician can possibly. “Anything better than the opposite sex, they must have kept it up above”, he sings, rubbing his thighs, spittle running down his chin. The horns are all over the place, the flair player of the song, whilst the engine is provided by that ever wonderful New Orleans bassline. And, really, you can’t front on a song that compares the greatness of women to the greatness of Philly cheese steaks. [DP]

2. Lee Dorsey – “Who’s Gonna Help Brother Get Further”
The Beastie Boys weren’t wrong when they said “everything I do is funky, like Lee Dorsey”, since there’s probably no more accurate a barometer of funk and soul than the Louisiana ex-boxer, and it doesn’t get much better than the rattling bass and squealing guitars of this dissertation on the inward troubles of the outwardly vibrant and happy Southern black community. From the doddering, sex-crazed “old dude” to the John who’s “too cool to go to school” and who gets a job that “in two days he quits”, Dorsey insists that the only way these troubled souls will get out of the rut is to help “one another”. That syncopated breakdown and return to the chorus at 2:15 is just something else, and it only gets more brilliant when he asks his backing band “what happened to the Liberty Bell I heard so much about? Did it really ding dong?” and they reply, downbeat, “it didn’t ding long”. Like Ernie & The Top Notes, Dorsey knows that the best way to get the people to listen to your message is to make them dance so hard they forget they’re being preached to. As he says in the song, “it’s an old thing, and it’s a soul thing—but it’s a real thing”. It doesn’t come much realer than this. [CB]

1. Dixie Cups – “Iko Iko”
Ridiculously jacked by Lumidee for “Uh Oh”, but this doesn’t feature Busta Rhymes dribbling all over it. You know it as the “My grandma and your grandma sitting by the fire” song. You should know it as one of the finest tunes ever written. Based on a Native American nursery rhyme, sparser than a bombsite, not a single sound is wasted here. As close to perfection as I’ve ever heard in two minutes and three seconds. [DP]

By: Clem Bastow and Dom Passantino

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Posted 04/21/2004 - 09:36:15 AM by lakespeed:
 isn't it a bit suspicious that every track in your top 10 is lifted from those 2 soul jazz new orleans funk compilations? dudes, 2 comp cds does not a new orleans funk expert make. plus you didn't even pick the best 10 songs on those 2 comps! AND. and you've got the nerve to diss lady marmalade?!? please try harder.
Posted 04/21/2004 - 09:50:54 AM by d.a.boyfriend:
 I was just about to mention that, but lakespeed beat me to it. I do agree that this material is great and worthy of mention, but why not just review the two comps rather than try to pass it off as something else?
Posted 04/21/2004 - 03:58:47 PM by candialectic:
 Jeez, I hate to be so negative but that's the most half-arsed list I've seen in a long time. One could easily pick out ten equally fine tracks by having a friend blindfold them and shove them through the door of any reputable New Orleans record merchant and picking up the first ten 45's that reach your mitts.
Posted 04/21/2004 - 10:24:12 PM by clem_bastow:
 Apparently a song's inclusion on a compilation automatically disqualifies it from being worthy of celebration. Right, important criticism tip, thanks guys.
Posted 04/22/2004 - 10:44:43 AM by d.a.boyfriend:
 That's not really the point -- the point is that ALL of your list was taken from the same two comps. Not that the music isn't worthy, just that you two apparently couldn't be bothered to look any further than those two collections which were selected by other people in the first place. Hell, you chose like 7 from the first comp alone! It doesn't really show too much imagination, or even that you know anything about the music other than what you learned from two records. Maybe you do, maybe you don't, I couldn't say personally -- in any case, this list doesn't reflect anything but the fact that the folks at Soul Jazz know what they're doing. I own those two comps, and I was looking forward to reading this to show me some other places to check for similar quality material. Sadly, you told me about 10 songs that I -- a relative neophyte -- already knew, and my knowldege is limited at best. I think lakespeed summed it up best: please try harder.
Posted 04/22/2004 - 08:26:32 PM by clem_bastow:
 Show me some of your fine work, d.a.boyfriend, and then we'll discuss "trying harder". [cue: crickets]
Posted 04/22/2004 - 09:32:02 PM by d.a.boyfriend:
 It's a legit criticism, Clem, and I wasn't the first to make it in fact, and yet I only see you coming after me for some reason. I didn't attack either of you personally, merely pointed out my disappointment in the work (which I admitted I that I was actually looking forward to even). In fact, I even said that the music you chose was worthy of praise. It's a shame that staff writers at Stylus (well, one of them anyway) feel the need to attack people pointing out flaws in their work in such an immature fashion with childish comebacks rather than explaining or justifying what they wrote like a grown up. I don't see you cracking back on lakespeed or candialectic. Aren't you supposed to be a representative of the site or something? Are the Stylus management proud of the way you are handling this, by pointing out one particular person's feedback and insulting them while ignoring the others who made the same point? Seems awfully personal to me. If you can't take the criticism (and again I am not the only one making it, just the only one getting talked back to), why does Stylus have this comment section up here in the first place? Show me where I made a personal comment about either you or Dom on the level of what you said to me and I'll gladly rescind it. In the meantime, if you'd like to address the actual criticism that we have all made, I'm sure we would love to hear your explanation rather than petty insults made at people you don't like.
Posted 04/22/2004 - 10:09:52 PM by clem_bastow:
 "petty insults made at people you don't like" - I'll ignore that comment purely because I can't be bothered arguing with you [though you might recall comments on your part directed at me such as "you'll never be Lisa Oliver"] and because I hardly think you speak for Stylus' management. The fact is, d.a.boyfried/lakespeed/candi, if you want to be "educated" in the ways of New Orleans funk and soul, go and knock yourselves out. Dom and I decided to write about ten of our FAVOURITE songs, that - shock! - happen to be on a couple of compilations [neither of which, for the record, I own]. If you think what we're doing is half-arsed, fine, why don't you submit some material or show us a better example that you've come up with yourself? No one here is claiming to be an expert in the genre, merely an enthusiast - but I must have forgotten that enthusiasm and fandom is frowned upon in music criticism. Silly me.
Posted 04/23/2004 - 09:31:39 AM by lakespeed:
 "No one here is claiming to be an expert in the genre"...but, the title of the column is "the top ten new orleans funk jams"!? Plus, you claim ignorance of the Soul Jazz comps, but the cover for the 2nd of the 2 is clipped for the icon for the article! Maybe not your choice, but still.... Am I to believe you've actually hunted down all the 45s yourself? Because some of those tracks you picked are pretty obscure. I can't wait to hear the stories behind hunting some of those down. Much, like d.a., I'm pretty much a neophyte and have no problem admitting I couldn't make a better list because I own maybe 2 or 3 comps on this subject. in response to "enthusiasm and fandom is frowned upon in music criticism" - no, recommend me those records, dude - they deserve all the lip service. i just don't go out and buy a k-tel compilation on mexican polka songs and then publish an article on the "top ten greatest mexican polkas" and take all the tracks from my one k-tel compilation.
Posted 04/23/2004 - 09:37:37 AM by lakespeed:
 bottom line, clem: it's just lazy journalism. even down to your supposed ignorance of these comps, which have been praised throughout many a print & web publication over the last 2 years.
Posted 04/23/2004 - 02:23:27 PM by jonabbey:
 and on top of everything else, to choose "mama roux" from gris-gris, and not mention the infinitely greater genius of "walk on guided splinters", by far dr. john's crowning moment, is at the very least ignorant, but more likely backs up the criticism of all of these tracks being taken from the two soul jazz comps.
Posted 04/23/2004 - 02:24:28 PM by jonabbey:
 that would be, um, "guilded splinters", not guided. whoops.
Posted 04/23/2004 - 02:40:57 PM by jonabbey:
 "The Beastie Boys weren’t wrong when they said “everything I do is funky, like Lee Dorsey”" this isn't quite what they meant, they were just namechecking dorsey's great song "everything I do gone be funky (from now on)".
Posted 04/24/2004 - 12:19:26 AM by boilingboy:
 Absolutely. You guys are correct. This is truly lazy journalsim. To make matters worse, this Clem guy is actually saying "Let's see YOUR writing if you don't like it." What is this...junior high? It's the journalistic equal of Fred Durst countering hecklers by telling them "I'm on stage, and you're there." By the way, this isn't the first time I've caught these guys making their best-of lists from compilations. Is it lazy journalism or lack of music knowledge? Both are pretty inexcusible.
Posted 04/24/2004 - 12:35:57 AM by boilingboy:
 By the way, I used to have the silly idea that clerks in music stores should know something about the music they sell. They rarely do, anymore. What's worse is that they often don't seem to see the problem. Apparently, it's becoming the same for music critics now.
Posted 04/24/2004 - 01:44:34 AM by clem_bastow:
 "Is it lazy journalism or lack of music knowledge?" I don't know, go to and we'll see who's lazy.
Posted 04/24/2004 - 02:24:24 AM by clem_bastow:
 "...this Clem guy..." - and for the record, wiseass, I'm a girl.
Posted 04/24/2004 - 06:22:59 PM by candialectic:
 Clem,in an effort to try and be constructive here's a few records you should seek out if new orleans funk is of interest. The first three are 45's not sure if they've made it onto comps yet, though with the plethora of new orleans related comps it's highly likely they have. 1- Curly Moore & The Kool Ones- Shelley's Rubber Band 2- James Booker- Tubby Pts 1 & 2 3- Roy Ward- Horse with a Freeze Pt.s 1 & 2 the Night Train International label (a subsidiary of Tuff City Records) is almost exclusively devoted to 60-70's N.O. reissues and you wouldn't do wrong to check out any of the half-dozen or so comps they have out. Among them the Wardell Quezerque and Chuck Carbo/Eddie Bo/Scram comps are particularly nice as well as their Bosses of the Big Beat series, featuring some of New Orleans finest drummers, the Smokey Johnson, James Black and June Gardener volumes are all damn fine and worthy of investigation.Also the Chuck Simmons- Hustler's Strut disc is a keeper. The Crescent City Funk cd on the UK Grapevine label is great if you can find it. Capitol/EMI put out a brilliant 4 CD Box of N.O. Soul and R&B; to coincide with 1996 Jazz & Heritage Festival back when I lived in the big easy. As good an overview as possible without all the un-issued/trainspotter hip cache of most of the comps released since. It's out of print my judging by the amount of copies I saw floating around new orleans at the time I'm sure there's got to be a store or two that still has a copy in stock. Happy hunting and listening.
Posted 04/26/2004 - 12:49:03 AM by boilingboy:
 Thanks, "Clem" for making my argument for me. What are you... 12 years old? You sure act like it. How about being less catty and thin-skinned, and start addressing the well thought out criticisms directed towards you. Are you sure you're not Fred Durst?
Posted 12/21/2004 - 11:37:17 PM by proffokker:
 I checked Clem's website and it doesn't exist. Lazy indeed.
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