How many people remember Chris Kenner? Never had anything like in hit in the UK as far as I recall. I'm not even sure if some of his stuff was released here. He did have hits in the US but it was a long time ago. He died in 1976 so wasn't around to pick up later acclaim and awards and all that stuff as has thankfully happened with some of the other early guys.
There was an album out in the UK on Chris titled "Land of a Thousand Dances" on Atlantic at the time which I managed to pick up and used to play quite a lot. AllMusic refer to it as "... one of the great forgotten albums". This one is pretty well an expanded version of that set.
Chris was an anomaly in a way. Whilst associated very much with the newer sound of the Allen Toussaint regime, in fact he sounds like a throwback to much earlier days, so much so, he makes the earlier generation like Domino and Smiley Lewis sound positively sophisticated. This is particularly noticeable on the handful of slower numbers in this set which have echoes of a church upbringing but with Chris wandering around the notes as if he was one of the few that never did get selected for the choir. On the faster numbers, some of which are variants of his hits, he slurs his voice as if he always had a few jars before the session started.
The three hits are here of which the evergreen "(The name of the place is) I like it like that" is still one of my all-time favourites. The rolling piano sound and the raw vocal seem to have come from some different voodoo New Orleans - Fats and even Huey with Bobby Marchan didn't sound as demented as this. And what a magnificent punchline. The only pity is that this set doesn't contain Part 2 though that wasn't any different so I guess you could just play Part 1 again. "Something You Got Baby" is more conventional Big Easy music but Chris still managed to sound more down home than the cover version from Fats. The slow to medium grinding "Land of a 1000 Dances" is another where the voodoo spirit is alive and kicking. If you only know the cover from the Wicked Pickett which is a relatively conventional (and good) soul charger then try this one which is very different. It's a song that seems to inspire good covers; there's another excellent one from Little Richard.
Chris Kenner was his own worst enemy who somehow managed to cut a few singles in the 50s which no one has heard only read about.One of the songs made its way to Fats Domino-Sick & Tired-a poor song to my mind and even the Fat Man couldn't do much with it but there you go. Enter supremo Allen Toussaint who had no drink problem but an astute sense of business which Kenner could never even have dreamed about. He saw something there apart from a guy with not much of a voice and even less as a stage performer.In fact Chris Kenner is one of the sad tales of New Orleans music. But he had at least a few ideas which Toussiant worked on and they came up with a total zonker called I Like It Like That-which hit the top 5.Later in the 60s the song was covered by the Dave Clark 5 who put it back on the charts Then a year later came Land of 1000 Dances which was actually leased to Atlantic but with little success The song only mentions 5 dances and shows Kenner wasn't really that much of a lyric writer and it was covered by Rufus Thomas,Wilson Pickett and Cannibal & the Headhunters who landed it in the top 30 Kenner made a lot of money in royalties but spent it as fast as it came in. His death caused by acute alcoholism went unnoticed for over a week when he was discovered in a shack by people trying to find him and it was decided to hold a private funeral and cover it up from the World. The real tragedy is why no one ever tried to cure him
I never heard of him before, obviously never marketed in Britain when I was a kid into music in the late 1950's and a teenager during the 1960's. I was searching for obscure Lee Dorsey recordings and, by sheer good fortune, stumbled across this album instead. I had to download it and gave up on Lee Dorsey for another day. What a brilliant album. Not all polished and slick, but having that crucial rough edge that makes the old RnB tunes live and breath with personality and soul. Like the albums title, I (do) like it like that.