Wheelin’ And Dealin’: The Definitive Collection
Without his signature song “Yes We Can Can,” later a monster funky hit for the Pointer Sisters, this shouldn’t be called definitive. But it’s still a heck of a lot more complete than the existing 12 cut anthology (which includes that song) that’s previously been the only domestic Dorsey best of available. Lee Dorsey was one of the many hitmakers that sprang out of the vibrant New Orleans scene of the ’60s, and with help from songwriter/arranger Allan Toussaint, created some of the most hummable pop/R+B classic ever to hit the AM radio waves.
You may not recognize the name, but you probably know the tunes; “Ya-Ya,” “Ride Your Pony,” “Working In The Coal Mine,” and “Do-Re-Me” are just a few of the minor classics here, and even the songs you haven’t heard before just bristle with Toussaint’s arrangements and Dorsey’s subtle but emotional vocals. Never a trained musician (he kept his car repair business going even when the hits were hot), history has been kind to Dorsey. The Clash asked him to open one of their tours, and when he died in 1986 at the age of 60, his place was cemented in the extensive legacy of New Orleans music.
But amazingly, these 30-year-old songs don’t sound a bit dated. Between Toussaint’s imaginative arrangements (horns and piano charts are intricately written and intertwined), pop/soul hooks, and Dorsey’s plaintive singing, these cuts shimmer for every second of their 3 minute lengths. I dare you to listen to anyone of these 20 marvelous songs and not be able to sing its chorus the next day.
Even in the shadow of the intensely rich history of sixties R+B, soul just doesn’t get more well..likeable than Lee Dorsey. He wrapped the yearning anticipation of the best soul around the funky grit of the heart of New Orleans, and concocted a whole lot of fun.