Rejuvenation is the epitome of groove-laden, hook-rich, in-your-face funk.
Daryl Easlea 2010-04-01
By the mid-70s, The Meters, who had risen to prominence as Allen Toussaint’s backing band, were stretching out their grooves. Rejuvenation, their fifth album, marks the point when the New Orleans four-piece became simply unassailable as a tight funk unit. Their dense, repetitive sound, which placed the rhythm section at its very centre, had earned them a mighty reputation. Mick Jagger, no less, was to say that they were “the best motherf****** band in the world”. So although there is material here with the brevity and snap of their legendary early hit, Cissy Strut, Rejuvenation represents a febrile merger of funk and swamp rock.
People Say, Hey Pocky A-Way and Just Kissed My Baby sway and strut – this is beautiful, less-is-more music. What’cha Say is the template for The Blockheads’ sound, and they weren’t the only ones listening. Africa is the most successful track here – chiming with the great 70s Roots-inspired quest for African heritage, it’s almost the sound of stamping feet making their passage back to the motherland. Its skittering, hard-edged beats were tremendously inspirational – the Red Hot Chili Peppers renamed it Hollywood, got George Clinton in to produce and kick-started their career in the mid-80s with it.
Having Art Neville as a vocalist meant The Meters simply were not just a groove band. Song-based material includes Love Is for Me which, with its sweet, soulful female backing vocals, sounds like some lost Atlantic B side from a decade earlier.
It Ain’t No Use shows the debt that Eric Clapton’s records, too, owed to The Meters. By the time it gets into its jamming section – it is nearly 12-minutes long – it has become a showcase for Joseph Modeliste’s remarkable drumming, coming across like a funk Keith Moon. Neville’s block piano chords, Leo Nocentelli’s niggling guitar and George Porter Jr’s bass take this to a far trippier place. Only Loving You Is on My Mind’s cheery, straight-ahead groove seems somewhat superfluous.
If you only wish ever to hear one swamp-soul album, then make this it: Rejuvenation is the epitome of groove-laden, hook-rich, in-your-face funk. Its swagger and strut make it sound remarkably contemporary to 21st century ears.