It Do Me Good: The Banashak & Sansu Sessions 1966-1978
Huey "Piano" Smith's singles for Ace, Vin, and Imperial have been compiled several times, but his late-'60s and '70s sides for Instant, Banashak, and Sansu have rarely seen the light of day on CD. This 2013 collection from Charly expands upon their long out of print 1987 collection Pitta Pattin', containing all 16 sides from that disc, adding a few rarities, unreleased tracks, and the last recordings the R&B legend made: a handful of tracks for Allen Toussaint's Sansu imprint in 1978. During this time, Smith rotated musicians and even band names, happily incorporated some of the fuzzy, wah-wah-drenched funk of the late '60s, embraced black power ("Epitaph of Uncle Tom," "Ballad of a Black Man"), attempted a couple odd novelties ("Funky Funky Football), and recut several of his hits, revisiting "Rockin' Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu" in both 1972 and 1978. These re-recordings aren't straight-up copies; they're looser and funkier, reflecting the elastic funk of the '70s, as does the rest of the music here: grooves are split up over two sides, the rhythms get thicker, the production favors punch over grit, the music emphasizes the groove over the songs. Smith doesn't seem uncomfortable with the shift in aesthetic -- his piano still rolls easy and he's a skilled ringleader -- but there's also no denying that this latter-day material doesn't quite compare to his classic '50s and early-'60s sides. Nevertheless, those who have a deep love for Huey "Piano" Smith and New Orleans R&B won't mind that this material is second-tier, as second-tier Smith is still plenty good and there's no denying that it's fun hearing rare material from him, particularly as it captures him playing out and stretching in ways he never did.