A few years ago I came across a list of the all-time "50 funkiest songs." I remember an entry in there for The Meters, I think it was "Cissy Strut." Pffft, what a useless exercise.
Try coming up with "The Fifty Funkiest Meters Songs."
If you look up the word "funk" in dictionary, you're likely see a picture of drummer Ziggy Modeliste, keyboardist Art Neville, guitarist Leo Nocentelli, and bassist George Porter, Jr. right next to the word. The Meters were so funky, they made George Clinton sound like Perry Como.
Have I mentioned how funky the Meters were?
With all the hyperboles out of the way (which I believe in, by the way), let's talk about this band more specifically. While Clinton arguably invented modern funk, the Meters are responsible for the best branch of funk, that New Orleans funk. With Allen Toussaint at the controls behind the boards, the Meters reliably cranked out R&B moderate hits like the aforementioned "Cissy Strut" that introduced their trademark Big Easy rhythms married to contemporary soul in the late sixties and early seventies. By the time they switched to a big label (Reprise) in 1972 and started adding vocals, they had a reputation much bigger than their chart action. But being the studio backing band to the likes of Lee Dorsey, Earl King, Dr. John, Robert Palmer, and yes, even Sir Paul McCartney, helped to pay some bills.
Still, the records under their own name were outstanding in their own right. By the time 1974's Rejuvenation came out, their sound was not only firmly established, but their songwriting matured and broadened considerably. It's on that album that the New Orleans-paced top 40 hit "Hey Pocky A-Way" was culled from as well as the tightly-constructed funk of "People Say."
But my personal standout is the slow groove of "Just Kissed My Baby." The relaxed pace is keyed by a wah-wah soon joined by Modeliste's unique creole beat. The simple, drawn out vocal phrases like "Feel like a king…'Cause I just kissed my baby" are deliberately spaced so as to not get in way of the groove. Porter's bass line is so simple and yet so freakin' in the pocket. That little change up he does on the bridge slays me every time. It's so dead-gummed good the horn section mimics it. And if that wasn't enough, just a touch of sweet Delta Blues-style slide guitar seeps into the mix. A little Mississippi to go with the Lousisiana. Inspired, I say.
Evidently, I'm not alone in my sentiments, as this song has been sampled probably to death, at least since Public Enemy did it for their "Timebomb" track back in '87. Texas guitar slinger Chris Duarte recorded a respectable cover back in '94. But old-school types will want to enjoy the authentic, whole enchilada as it was originally conceived.
So, yeah, these guys — every one of them — oozed that funky stuff. I ain't lyin'. Listen to "Just Kissed My Baby" for yourself and pick up a dictionary, if you don't believe me.
Listen: The Meters "Just Kissed My Baby"
"One Track Mind" is a more-or-less weekly drool over a single song selected on a whim and a short thesis on why you should be drooling over it, too.