With our top ten list of songs from The Meters we look at one of the most important and underrated acts in the funk genre. Throughout the sixties and seventies they enjoyed their most creative and successful period, performing both their own music and serving as backing players for other musicians including Lee Dorsey and Robert Palmer amongst others.
The Meters were first formed in 1965 by Art Neville who was the keyboard player and vocalist. The rest of the band was made up of guitarist Leo Nocentelli, George Porter Jnr on bass and drummer Joseph Modeliste. Art’s brother Cyril Neville later joined as a vocalist and percussionist.
After recording eight albums, The Meters broke up in 1977. In 1989, they reformed with a slightly different line-up and have continued to exist ever since despite not recording any more new music since the late seventies. Art Neville died in 2018.
Despite their lack of mainstream success, The Meters influence has been very far reaching, with them even being considered by many to be as equally influential in funk as the likes of James Brown. Their music has frequently been sampled in the genre of Hip-hop by the likes of LL Cool J, Run DMC N.W.A, Ice Cube Cypress Hill and Public Enemy amongst many others. In addition to this, many artists in rock and funk have played The Meters songs from the Red Hot Chili Peppers to The Grateful Dead.
The music of The Meters has also had a strong presence in popular culture having made numerous appearances in movies, tv shows and even video games, showing that their music has a strong relevance decades after its release.
So without further ado, here at Classic Rock we are taking yet another opportunity to introduce readers who may not be familiar with the work of a brilliant and criminally overlooked musical group.
# 10 – Give It What You Can
Kicking off our top ten Meters songs list we have the closing number of The Meter’s eighth and final album New Directions released in 1977. The album was produced by Dave Rubinson and is notable as being the only Meters album to be recorded outside of New Orleans. It also features contributions from the Oaklands based Tower of Power horn section.
# 9 – Mister Moon
Up next is the eighth track from The Meter’s seventh album Trick Bag released in 1976. Recorded right off the back of the band’s tour opening for The Rolling Stones, several of the tracks were reportedly preliminary recordings that were selected for release due to several band members being absent from the recording sessions.
# 8 – Liar
This track is from The Meters sixth album Fire on the Bayou released in 1975. This record marked Cyril Neville’s debut performance with the group. During the time of the record’s release, the band were enjoying a period of popularity with their live performances receiving much acclaim. However, the album did not sell well and thus did meet their label’s expectations.
# 7 – It Ain’t No Use
Here we have one of the longer numbers from The Meters at eleven minutes long that is taken from their fifth album Rejuvenation released in 1974. After the first three albums had mostly been instrumental, the previous record to this one was the first to feature vocal arrangements. It is a very acclaimed album and numerous artists have recorded cover versions of several songs from it.
# 6 – Cabbage Alley
Ending the first half of this list we have the title track and closing number of The Meters fourth album released in 1972. It was their first record to be released on Reprise Records after their previous label Josie Records went bankrupt in 1971. This song was reportedly partially inspired by “Hey Now Baby” by Professor Longhair.
# 5 – Chicken Strut
This song is the opener and somewhat partial title track of The Meters third album Struttin released in 1970. It is the first Meters album to feature vocals which are performed by Art Neville. It was recorded at a studio owned by Cosimo Matassa who was a renowned producer at the time. This was released as the album’s first single where it got to number eleven on the US r&B charts.
# 4 – Rigor Mortis
This is the second track from The Meters second album Look Ka Py Py released in 1969. With it being an early album, it is all purely instrumental with no vocal performances. It was ranked at number 218 on Rolling Stones 500 Greatest Albums list and number 220 in a revised version. The sound here is rather minimalist, with not much in the way of flamboyance in terms of the playing style.
# 3 – Ann
At number three we have the closing number of The Meters self-titled debut also released in 1969. A lot of the band’s early work was put together through improvisation, with the band members having previously been playing the club circuit in New Orleans. The sound here is rather psychedelic in nature.
# 2 – Look Ka Py Py
Just off the top spot is the title track of The Meters second album. This song was released as a single where it got to number eleven on the US R & B singles chart. The album itself got to number twenty-three on the R & B albums chart. In general the song is considered to be a classic of both its genre and era.
# 1 – Cissy Strut
At the top of this list we have a single taken from The Meters debut album which upon its release got to number four on the R & B chart and number twenty-three on the Billboard Hot 100. In 2011, it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. It has certainly proved to be culturally significant over the years, from its appearances in films such as “Jackie Brown” and numerous cover versions. A compilation of tracks from The Meters first three albums was also named after it.