Say, are you looking for the perfect gift for that music-lover friend of yours? Or perhaps for yourself? Have we got a suggestion for you!
Order/pick up/buy/download Rejuvenation, the 1974 release by The Meters.
WHAT? You don’t KNOW about this record? Why, this will become one of your desert island records (assuming, of course, that you have some way to play your albums or CDs or MP3s ON the desert island).
The Meters are universally acknowledged as one of the most important R’n’B bands ever. Leo Nocentelli, Art Neville, George Porter, Jr., and Zigaboo Modeliste are four titans who have help continue the importance of the Crescent City’s contribution to American music.
They emerged from the Allen Toussaint School of… almost everything. Their first albums contained memorable hits such as “Cissy Strut,” “Here Comes the Meter Man,” “Sophisticated Cissy,” “Look-Ka Py Py,” “ Funky Miracle” and “Little Old Money Maker.” After two albums in 1969 and one in 1970, there was a hiatus.
They returned in 1972 with Cabbage Alley, indicating some new directions, demonstrated by the first track, “You’ve Got to Change, You’ve Got to Reform.” After three albums that were primarily instrumental (think “Cissy Strut”), this one featured vocals on most tracks. Two years later, Rejuvenation appeared. The title is accurate. Cabbage Alley was a very good album, but its follow-up is a classic in every way, from the over-the-top cover to the deep, deep grooves inside.
The original record album was on Reprise Records, a division of Warner Brothers. It was recorded at Toussaint’s new Sea-Saint Studio in New Orleans.
All nine compositions are credited to the entire band, with Toussaint as the producer. There are no weak links here, and five of the songs are genuine smashes, especially in terms of the wide range of bands who have covered them since.
It is impossible NOT to sing along during the chorus of “People Say.” The song starts with that Nocentelli chunky funky guitar. Modeliste picks up the beat, then Porter enters, and finally Neville’s piano washes overtop. This is classic Meters funk, strutting from start to finish. Toussaint added a horn section for much of the album, used here for accents under the stanzas and blasting along with the chorus.
“Love is for Me” is pure soul music, so beautiful and smooth, a real departure from the band’s usual sound. Horns are in the background, and female voices provides awesome choral help.
“I feel like a king… ’cause I just kissed my baby.” That is a sentiment that every man — and woman — on the planet can relate to. It gets deeper than deep in “Just Kissed My Baby,” with Porter’s bass and nasty drumming from Modeliste powering it through.
The twenty-second intro to “What’cha Say” lulls you before The Meters drop the hammer. The funk is deep once again as they sing “If I gave myself to you for the rest of my life, would you promise never to leave?”
“Jungle Man” is short, straightforward old-school Meters — with vocals and horn accents. Nocentelli makes this one happen, with Neville’s clavinet smoking in the background.
And if you’re looking for old-school NOLA, look no further than “Hey Pocky A-Way,” another great singalong tune. Neville’s piano is just plain badass. The title harkens back to “Look-Ka Py Py.”
The masterpiece is next. There is no other way to describe “It Ain’t No Use,” a tune which has been lovingly and beautifully covered by many artists. The tune itself is stunning, but the lyrics? Oh, my!
“Ain’t no use, to cut you loose.
I wouldn’t last a day.
It ain’t no use, to turn you loose.
Guess I’m here to stay.
I could think of a thousand reasons,
Why I should walk right out that door.
But if I do I know that I’ll turn around again,
And come right back for more.
It ain’t no use.
You’ve got me where you want me,
Shackled to your love.”
Nocentelli opens with a little guitar figure before Porter’s instantly identifiable bass tumbles over it. Nocentelli then stings, with the band chugging and the background chorus underneath. It is such a glorious combination: Nocentelli’s superb guitar, Neville’s piano, strong lead vocal and wonderful background chorus, and those lyrics. If you haven’t been there, well, you’re very lucky. Twelve minutes of brilliance, ending with all four members in perfect unity.
“Loving You is On My Mind” gives you breathing room after “It Ain’t No Use,” a beautiful soul ballad with a strong Porter bassline and picture-perfect drums from Modeliste. Neville’s piano is great, as is Nocentelli’s brief lovely solo.
“Take me back… to the motherland” is the intro to “Africa,” a rhythmic delight with Porter again sliding around and great choral vocals from the quartet. “Take me back… where the woman is the woman, and a man is a man.” It is simplicity, and yet there is a lot going on, Neville on B3.
44 minutes of real music. 42 years old, and it could have been recorded yesterday. Honest music. Soul-searching, heart-pounding music.
You need it. Your friends need it. Stop reading! Start ordering! But keep listening!
And the Original Meters are on Jam Cruise! Tie Your Shoes Reviews will be front and center!