This splendid 1980 album re-introduced New Orleans piano wizard Professor Longhair, who was still relatively obscure outside of his New Orleans home base, to the rest of the blues world. Sadly, the 'Fess passed away just as Crawfish Fiesta was released.
I may already be preaching to the choir here. But if you don't have this CD, get it now. It's, without a doubt, one of the best of all time. Forget your "top ten" lists --- Crawfish Fiesta belongs in the top five!
Dr. John (Mac Rebannack) had a big hand in the production of this album, and played guitar on all tracks. If you're familiar with any of Longhair's previous recordings from throughout his career, he doesn't really cover any new ground with the dozen cuts here. But this session was magical, and every number on Crawfish Fiesta sounds fresh and invigorated. They really caught the 'Fess on a good day.
The CD kicks off with a rousing version of one of Longhair's signature tunes, "Big Chief." The piano intro, followed by the Professor's whistling and Alfred "Uganda" Collins' infectious conga playing, pulls you in immediately. I've frequently played this album for non-blues fans over the years, and I've never encountered anyone who did not like this song.
Longhair slows the tempo for a great cover of the blues classic "Something On Your Mind." But then he immediately picks it back up for the excellent "You're Driving Me Crazy."
Another classic from this disc is the very New Orleans-sounding "Red Beans," which since has been covered quite capably by Rounder recording artist Marcia Ball.
No Professor Longhair album would be complete without a reworking of his wacky novelty tune "Bald Head," recorded previously by the 'Fess under the title "She Ain't Got No Hair."
Crawfish Fiesta is one of those CDs which you'll want to play over and over. If you don't have it, buy it immediately. Otherwise, grab a couple of extra copies to hand out at Christmas time this year.
--- Bill Mitchell
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