"A HISTORY OF NEW ORLEANS RHYTHM & BLUES," volumes 1-3. Rhino. With a generous 14 songs on each record, Rhino's thoughtfully packaged three-album series provides an excellent overview of the New Orleans sound during the two decades the city was one of the musical and spiritual centers of rock 'n' roll.
Vol. 1 covers 1950-58, a period when early jazz, ragtime, blues and stride piano merged in records like "Bald Head" by Roy (Professor Longhair) Byrd and "Rockin' Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu" by Huey (Piano) Smith & the Clowns.
The 1959-62 period represented in Vol. 2 includes such quasi-novelty tunes as Ernie K-Doe's "Mother-In-Law" and Lee Dorsey's "Ya Ya." many carry the stamp of writer-producer-musician Allen Toussaint, a major force behind much post-'50s New Orleans music. The emphasis in Vol. 3, covering 1962-70, is intensely soulful ballads like Aaron Neville's hit "Tell It Like It Is" and Irma Thomas' searing rendition of "Time Is On My Side," recorded (in Los Angeles) before the Rolling Stones' version.
As with most of Rhino's reissues, these boast extensive, intelligent liner notes and complete documentation of recording dates and original labels.