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Eddie Bo & Chris Barber:The 1991 Sea-Saint Sessions(The Last Company/Proper) February 24th



4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)



This a lovely find. Previously unreleased nine-track album recorded in New Orleans in 1991, produced by British legend Chris Barber. Eddie Bo is an artist who has never had the recognition he truly deserves. You may not have heard of him, but this man worked with over forty different record labels in his time and incredibly, released more singles than anyone else from New Orleans except Fats Domino. His debut release for Ace Records “Baby” dropped in 1955.

Edwin Joseph Bocage known as Eddie Bo was born in New Orleans on September 20th 1930.  A singer and pianist schooled in jazz, he was best known for his blues, soul and funk output as a performer, arranger, composer and record producer in the city.  He worked with Big Joe Turner, Earl King, Guitar Slim, Johnny Adams, Lloyd Price, Ruth Brown, Smiley Lewis, The Platters and more.

It was while Chris Barber was playing with Dr John for a month in New Orleans during 1991 that a friend suggested that Chris should rent Marshall Sehorn and Allen Toussaint’s “Sea-Saint” studio for a couple of days to cut Eddie Bo with some of New Orleans’ finest on the session. Eddie jumped at the opportunity and rounded up some top guns, starting with Bobby Bland’s long-time guitar player Wayne Bennett. Wayne had also played with an impressive bunch including, Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker, Elmore James, Cannonball Adderley, Sonny Stitt, Dexter Gordon, Jackie Wilson, The Chi-Lites and many more.

Eddie had wanted electric bass and tuba over the two days and so in came Charles “Chuck” Moore and Walter Payton.  An associate of the Neville Brothers and Allen Toussaint, Chuck had played electric bass on recordings with Guitar Slim Jnr., Rockin’ Dopsie, Marva Wright, Sugar Pie DeSanto, Zigaboo Modeliste and others.  Walter, a stalwart of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Young Tuxedo Brass Band had also participated in the many classic New Orleans recordings including Lee Dorsey’s “Working In A Coal Mine”, Aaron Neville’s Tell It Like It Is” and Robert Parker’s “Barefootin’”.

On the second day, Chuck got called to another session and but Walter stepped in and surprised everyone by playing bass guitar style on his string bass to great effect. Then Eddie got the hottest drummer in town.  Russell Batiste Jr., was just 26 years old on this session.  He had joined the Funky Meters a couple of years earlier when they were reincarnated following the breakup of The Meters and was on fire over this two-day session. New Orleans local “Alto Red” Morgan played Alto Sax and Chris Barber played Trombone, making up their parts on the spot.

The album kicks off with a bite-sized taste of the funk to come with the radio edit of Eddie’s “Wake Up”. The same song also closes the album with the full seven minutes and 30 second version. It mellows into groovy blues with “I’ve Got A Story”, giving Wayne Bennett a chance to do what he does best behind Eddie’s blue vocal and Red’s scorching solo. Then a soulful version of Bo’s 1960 hit “Tell It Like It Is”, nods to James Brown and perfectly sets up the mood for the story of the New Orleans character that Eddie reveals in “She Gay San”. New Orleans classic “Careless Love”, gets the full treatment.

“Every Dog Has Its Day”, is another fine example of one his hits from the 60s, with these guys fired up by Russell Batiste’s drumming tour de force.  Then Eddie takes it way back down to demonstrate that he knows his way around the timeless “You Are So Beautiful”. You’re snapped back onto your feet for yet more pure New Orleans good time music in the shape of “Check Your Bucket”, another hit for him back in 1970.

The tapes from the recording sessions on 11th and 12th April 1991, more than a quarter of a century ago, remained in Chris Barber’s personal archive until 2015, when he sent the boss of UK-based Proper Music Group a CD listening copy. He knew what he was hearing was too good to stay locked away in some dusty “vault”. The instantly infectious, pre-Katrina New Orleans funk exploded out if the speakers then, as it does now.

Talking of Katrina; Eddie was on tour in Paris when the hurricane destroyed his home, his recording studio and a restaurant he and his manager owned. Being a skilled carpenter, on his return to New Orleans he dealt with the repairs and re-building work himself. May 22nd 1997 was declared “Eddie Bo Day” in New Orleans by the then Mayor Marc Morial, but Eddie missed out on the celebrations as he was performing in Pakistan.

Eddie died of a heart attack in March 2009. He was 78-years-old. New Orleans Royalty Irma Thomas, Dr John and Allen Toussaint were among those performing at his memorial in April of that year. But Eddie Bo lives on through his superb music, and this album is a fitting testimony to a vastly under-appreciated talent.


By Simon Redley



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