Synonymous with New Orleans R&B and funk The Meters, though yet unnamed, began as a quartet in 1965, comprising Leo Nocentelli, George Porter Jr, Joseph Modeliste and Art Neville. Picked up by Allen Toussaint and Marshall Sehorn as session musicians they began a dozen-year journey eventually encompassing rock, soul, pop, and disco comprehensively chronicled across the eight albums, out-takes, and single-edits here collected.
Late ‘68 found them working up untitled instrumentals in the studio; early sides ‘Sophisticated Cissy’ and ‘Cissy Strut’ got named for a New York dance craze. These comprised the bulk of debut set The Meters along with takes on Sly Stone’s ‘Sing A Simple Song’ and Classics IV’s ‘Stormy’. Signed to Josie, a Jubilee Records subsidiary, and fairly oblivious to success they’d repeat the exercise on Look-Ka Py Py.
Third Josie release Struttin’ had full lead vocals from Art for the first time, witnessed on Jimmy Webb’s ‘Wichita Lineman’ and a revisited ‘Ride Your Pony’, originally cut with Lee Dorsey back in the day. Jubilee crashed and Toussaint took them to Reprise where the palette broadened. Cabbage Alley found them writing songs with lyrics; Art’s brother Cyril added percussion and duetted on the title track. They also covered label-mate Neil Young’s ‘Birds’.
With Rejuvenation horns and backing vocalists were added. This featured the signature ‘Hey Pocky A-Way’ and the splendid eleven minutes-plus of ‘It Ain’t No Use’. Around this time Cyril officially became the fifth member and an even rockier aspect shone over Fire On The Bayou released just as they set out to tour with The Rolling Stones.
Trick Bag saw them embrace disco, notably in album opener ‘Disco Is The Thing Today’, before heading for San Francisco and new producer David Rubinson. For New Directions he augmented them with the Tower Of Power horns; it was a powerful album with versions of Toussaint’s ‘I’m Gone’and Peter Tosh’s ‘Stop That Train’ and an impressive ballad in ‘Be My Lady,’ but Art and Cyril were gone before its release, heading for The Neville Brothers. By the end of ‘77 The Meters had run out but what a legacy remained.