VARIOUS; Feelin’ Right Saturday Night… The Ric And Ron Anthology (Craft)

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Ric and Ron was a pair of soul labels that existed in New Orleans between 1958 and 1962. They were set up by music biz hustler Joe Ruffino, an Italian-American, who had worked as a record distributor before teaming up with sometime Ace Records president Johnny Vincent to cut records. In ’58, Ruffino reckoned he could do it all on his own and so his two little labels were born. By that time New Orleans music has its own distinct style and sound – much of it down to the work of Dave Bartholomew. Ruffino decided he’d try and break that template and create his own “Big Easy sound”; to that end he enlisted a team of musicians who weren’t too well known (at that time) on the local scene. They included arranger Harold Battiste, guitarist Edgar Blanchard and piano man Mac Rebennack – long before he adopted his Dr John persona. Then Ruffino started to find his artists and to his credit he gave starts to many who would later go on to bigger things. Amongst his roster were Eddie Bo, Johnny Adams, Robert Parker, Chris Kenner, Barbara Lynn and Irma Thomas and collectors will be delighted to enjoy here Ms Thomas’ very first recording… 1959’s rollicking ‘Don’t Mess With My Man’. It’s one of the highlights on this concise 28 track sweep of the best of the Ric Ron output. Naturally there are inclusions from all those other “names” too.

The collection also offers Ric Ron’s biggest success – Joe Jones’ ‘You Talk Too Much’. However, such were the machinations of the 1960 US record biz, that it was Roulette Records that made the money from the record; in an attempt to salvage something Ruffino hastily cut an “answer” song – ‘I Don’t Talk Too Much’ from Martha Nelson. Sadly for Ruffino’s bank balance, it failed to emulate the success of the original.

Amongst the other highlights are the Velvetiers’ rustic ‘Feelin’ Right Saturday Night’ –for which this collection is named; Chris Kenner’s ‘Rocket To The Moon’; and Edgar Blanchard’s crazy, rockin’ instrumental ‘Lonesome Guitar’ .

Interestingly, given Ruffino’s original idea to break the New Orleans’ mould, there’s lots here that is typically “New Orleans” – notably Professor Longhair’s classic ‘Go To The Mardi Gras’ and Al Johnson’s ‘Carnival Time’ .

In a short life span Ric Ron issued just 70 singles and two LPs without too much success; but success doesn’t always have to be measured in dollars. If it were computed in passion, attack, commitment and downright fun, then these two labels would be right up there with the most successful. And don’t forget it was Ric Ron that gave the first break to two soul icons… Irma Thomas and Johnny Adams.

(BB) 4/5