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February 2004

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Earl King
Street Parade
Fuel 2000

Earl King - Street Parade

Speaking of artists who never really got their due, the Blues world lost a great one last spring. Earl King, the New Orleans legend, passed away just before Jazz Fest due to complications from diabetes at age 69.

King has long been acknowledged as one of the Crescent City's best composers and guitarists (as well as one of its flashiest dressers), penning such classics as "Trick Bag," "Those Lonely Lonely Nights," "Big Chief," and "Come On" on the old Ace and Imperial labels. His songs have been covered by Jimi Hendrix, the Subdudes, Robert Palmer, and scores of New Orleans acts such as Lee Dorsey, Fats Domino, Dr. John, and Professor Longhair, to  name just a few.

King had several tries at a wider audience, including a near-miss with Motown in the early '60s, but the closest brush involved an Allen Toussaint-produced recording (with backing by the Meters) in 1972, Street Parade, that originally piqued the interest of Atlantic Records. The deal fell through when Atlantic wouldn't put up any front money and the album was shelved by Toussaint's business partner, Marshall Sehorn. It wasn't a total loss though, as King was able to release the title song as a single, which continues to be a favorite at Carnival time. However, the album was never released in the U.S. (though it was released by the U.K.'s Charly Records in the early '80s).

Fuel 2000, which over the past few years has done an outstanding job reissuing blues music previously unavailable on CD, has come to the rescue again, issuing Street Parade for the first time in the U.S. The first 12 tracks are from the original Charly LP and feature some great performances, including both parts of "Street Parade."

Other highlights are a remake of King's "A Mother's Love," "Medieval Days" (later redone by King on one of his Black Top releases), a funky "Do the Grind," and a beautiful soul ballad, "A Part of Me." King was not known for deep soul ballads, but he has several fine ones here.

The six bonus tracks are also pretty good, including "All My Love," another nice soul ballad, and more funk with "Up On The Hill."

With the Meters backing King, it's only natural that there would be an emphasis on New Orleans-styled funk, which does make this CD stand out from other King releases.

King recorded sporadically for a number of years following Street Parade, including three great, but sadly out-of-print albums for Black Top (the highlights of which can be found in another Fuel 2000 release, King of New Orleans).

If you're not familiar with Earl King, you owe it to yourself to give his music a try, and Street Parade is not a bad place to start.

--- Graham Clarke

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