The Meter’s fifth album, Rejuvenation saw the New Orleans funk masters reach the pinnacle of their songwriting prowess. Unlike most classic albums, Rejuvenation was a relative commercial non-event at the time, but undoubtedly solidified the group as one of the most influential funk groups in music history.
A huge thank you to VMP who provided the album for this Classic Albums feature. Rejuvenation is a recent VMP Essentials release cut from the original analog tapes by Ryan Smith of Sterling Sound.
The Meters were formed in 1965 by keyboardist Art Neville in New Orleans. The group began as an unknown rhythm section behind some of New Orleans’ most celebrated R&B records. They featured Zigaboo Modeliste on drums, George Porter Jr. on bass, and guitarist Leo Nocentelli — The Meters had some serious musical talent.
It wasn’t until the late 60s that they began recording and performing their own music, but early tracks from the Meters, such as Cissy Strut and Look-Ka Py Py are now regarded as funk classics.
By the time they signed with Reprise and released the 1972 album Cabbage Alley, the group had progressed from writing mostly instrumental arrangements to creating full pop-funk classics complete with vocals.
1974s Rejuvenation is the follow-up album to Cabbage Alley, and was recorded at the brand new Sea-Saint Studios in New Orleans by Allen Toussaint.
The new facility was regarded as the cutting edge of production at the time, and you can certainly hear the step-up in production quality. The album has a classic 70s sound with solid, warm bass and crisp, dry drums that so often characterized the era.
Being from New Orleans, The Meters wear their cultural heritage with pride, serving a mashup of jazz, R&B, Mardi Gras, gospel, and African music. Through all these influences, the group’s tight groove and gritty funk hooks are unmistakably fresh.
Groove-forward highlights include the impossibly funky ‘Just Kissed My Baby’ and the now much celebrated ‘Africa’. Yet, thanks to Art Neville’s vocal ability and sense of melody, The Meters were also highly-capable Pop songwriters. The best showcase for this side of the band is the soulful classic ‘Love Is For Me’ with its sweet melody and souring female backing vocals.
One thing that always strikes me about 70s albums is the superb sense of musicianship that I believe is sadly lacking in a lot of modern music. By this, I mean the free-following spirit of improvised jam sessions, and the joy of watching a tight-knit set of musicians at the top of their game.
If this is your thing, then the twelve-minute long behemoth that is ‘It Ain’t No Use’ will have you tapping your feet and getting lost in the music. As the track descends into its long jam-session outro, you get a real sense of what Neville meant when he once commented on the “organized freedom” he’d never felt before in a band.
Their reputation as musicians grew far and wide, and while The Meters never truly acheived the commercial success they deserved, it’s little wonder that each of the musicians involved attracted the attention of some of the industry’s biggest players. Most famously, perhaps, Mick Jagger once described them as “the best motherf*cking band in the world”. Now that’s a compliment!
Later on, the Red Hot Chili Peppers would pay them the ultimate in flattery by taking the track ‘Africa’ and putting their own spin on it while recording the George Clinton-produced album ‘Freaky Styley’. The Chili Peppers version swaps “Africa” for “Hollywood” and changes the “motherland” lyric to “brother land”.
If that wasn’t enough to demonstrate The Meters cult success, they would also become one of the most sampled artists in hip-hop, with acts like Public Enemy and Timbaland taking cuts from Rejuvenation in their productions.
Rejuvenation is an essential funk album for any listener who wants to truly understand the genre. It’s laden with grit, swagger, and strut that will have you wanting to dance the night away. At the same time, the album’s pop sensibilities will have you singing in the shower and hooked for life.
Check out the album for yourself at vinylmeplease.com — it comes pressed on 180g neon yellow vinyl and is a lovely, clean pressing of this album.