Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Rockin' Song of the Week No.83 - Alvin 'Red' Tyler

Alvin 'Red' Tyler - Snake Eyes
Ace 556 (1959)

Alvin ‘Red’ Tyler was a major player on the New Orleans studio scene and was a regular collaborator of producer Allen Toussaint. Snake Eyes was one such event and was written by the duo. The fact that the song is a brilliant slice of New Orleans rock ‘n’ roll shouldn’t surprise anyone as the band included Tyler and Toussaint on sax and piano respectively, and other stalwarts, Frank Fields on bass and Justin Adams on guitar. The song was issued on the local Ace label in 1959 and was also included on Red’s rare long player, Rockin’ And Rollin’ a year later.

On the sleevenotes to the Bear Family CD The Complete 'Tousan' Sessions, Toussaint paid tribute to the sax man, “He was really good at puttin' things together in the studio. He knew how the studio and recordings functioned so much better than I did at the time.”

His career had started in earnest in 1949 when drummer Earl Palmer recommended him to Dave Bartholomew. It was a time when Bartholomew was becoming the main man in town and before you could say Southern Comfort he was recording guys like Tommy Ridgley, Jewel King and the emerging talent Fats Domino. Over the coming years he worked with the likes of Shirley and Lee, Lloyd Price, Little Richard, Professor Longhair, Clarence 'Frogman' Henry, Frankie Ford, Jimmy Clanton and James Booker.

I’m not sure whether Ace owner Johnny Vincent recorded him as a thank you for his loyalty or because fellow honker Lee Allen had shown that there was a place on the charts for New Orleans sax men. Whatever the reason, I’m just glad it happened because Snake Eyes is a blast. Tyler’s sax is obviously well to the fore but Toussaint’s piano isn’t too shabby either.

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