Various Artists: The Minit Records Story

Two eras of seminal New Orleans label

Originally released by Capitol in 1994 as a limited edition 2-CD set, this 52-track collection is now rescued from the high-prices of the secondary market with an affordable MP3 reissue. Minit Records was established in the early ‘60s in New Orleans by Joe Banashak, and distributed by Imperial. Minit was acquired by Imperial in 1963, but many of the label’s key sides and all of its biggest chart hits, starting with Jessie Hill’s “Ooh Poo Pah Doo, Part 2” and peaking with Ernie K-Doe’s chart-topping “Mother-in-Law,” came before the acquisition, and more importantly, before the departure of the label’s key asset: Allen Toussaint.

Toussaint had made a name for himself in New Orleans music circles as a teenager, and in a fortuitous reassignment of duties at Minit he started scouting new acts and then writing, producing and playing on their records. He infused each production with an irresistible dollop of New Orleans soul that made his records stand out from those produced on the coasts or in hot-spots like Chicago or Memphis. Toussaint is responsible for some of the labels greatest sides, including Benny Spellman’s “Lipstick Traces (On a Cigarette),” and its oft-covered flip, “Fortune Teller,” Aaron Neville’s “Over You,” Irma Thomas’ “Ruler of My Heart” and Ernie K-Doe’s “Mother-in-Law.”

Following Toussaint’s departure, the label continued to produce interesting records throughout the 1960s, as showcased on the second disc of this set. The label turned from the New Orleans style of its early singles to soul sounds influenced by Stax (especially its post-Atlantic work), Muscle Shoals and Motown. The results weren’t often as unique, but several singles scored on the R&B chart, and a few crossed over to pop success. Here you’ll find Ike & Tina Turner’s horn-driven soul cover of “I Wish it Would Rain,” electric boogaloo “I Wanna Jump,” and a gritty take on “Come Together,” Bobby Womack’s minor hit cover of “California Dreamin’,” Clydie King’s exuberant “I’ll Never Stop Loving You” and pre-Philly sides by the O’Jays.

Capitol’s digital download edition omits Chris Kenner’s “I Like it Like That, Part 1” (which can be found here), as well as the detailed liner notes that accompanied the CD set, but there’s a lot of great music here, particularly on disc one, at a good price. All selections in this set are mono except for stereo on disc one track 3, 6 and 7 and most of disc two. If your interest is limited to the label’s earlier Allen Toussaint sides, check out the single disc Finger Poppin’ and Stompin’ Feet; for the post-Toussaint releases only, find a copy of The Soul of Minit Records. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

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