Saturday, February 4, 2012

Chris Kenner

Chris KennerI’ve never been to New Orleans. As a kid I travelled a lot with my family, and we made it to the south west (LA), the southeast (Miami) but never due south.

So I have no firsthand experience that I can draw on here, none to explain what makes New Orleans music unique. I can’t tell what’s unique about it either – I can hear it, but I can’t describe it. The best thing I can tell you to do is listen: Fats Domino, Professor Longhair, Allan Toussaint.

Chris Kenner.

Kenner is know more by his songs (3 of them, to be specific) than by his recordings. But this collection is one of the best party albums I can recommend, if your party is about dancing. (You’ll have to look elsewhere for slow dances though; the ones on here you wouldn’t want to dance to). He has a foggy NO voice and a rhythm that can define the entire genre. This is a collection called I Like It Like That. All his hits are here (all two of them).

Chris Kenner:

I Like It Like That – His big hit. The title refers to a cool place you can go to and dance (with a name like that it has to be cool). This is one of a long series of songs about cool places, from The Drifters’ 333 to Ohio Express’ Down At Lulu’s. A hit in the summer of 1961 and covered to great success by The Dave Clark Five in the summer of 1965.
Anybody Here Seen My Baby – The tale of an abuser. No? Then why did she disappear without a trace?
Shoo-Rah – Not The Fats Domino song, though it can’t be a coincidence that they both did a song with this title. The rhythm here is more Bo Diddley, and the chord changes are non-existent. This must be where James Brown got the idea.
Johnny Little – This tale of a compulsive gambler sounds like a cross between Hully Gully and The Gong Gong Song.
Gonna Getcha Baby – I hope so, because he can’t dance to this all alone.
Never Reach Perfection – So when he does a ballad, it’s not romantic, it’s gospel.
Something You Got – He didn’t put this on the chart, but if there’s any justice he could retire on the royalties. So many covers of this. My favourite is Them.
That’s My Girl – And he sure is proud of her, tight jeans and all.
Land Of A Thousand Dances – “You gotta know how to pony.” Another iconic song, though Kenner’s version didn’t make it higher than number 74, and that was in the spring of 1963. It was Cannibal & The Headhunters that put it in the top 40, and who invented the na na-na-na na refrain, which was picked up later by Wilson Pickett. “Get down on your knees, do the sweet peas.” And don’t forget the slop, and chicken in the pot.
She Can Dance – In the context of this collection, that’s great praise indeed, though no surprise.
Come Back And See – I wouldn’t if I were her, but that jagged rhythm may be irresistible.
How Far – Love as distance, not the physical kind.
Time – Back to gospel, complete with church chorus.
All Night Rambler – Anticipates Mick and the boys by the better part of a decade, with a guitar that would do Keith proud.
Packing Up – Land Of A Thousand Dances redux, in the context of emotional severance.
(I Found) Peace – This could be romantic, or this could be religious, but either way this is noisy peace…

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