Walking the Dog (1963)
The Dog/Mashed Potatoes/Ooh-Poo-Pah-Doo/You Said/Boom Boom/It's Aw'rite/Walking The Dog/Ya Ya/Land Of 1000 Dances/Can Your Monkey Do The Dog/'Cause I Love You/I Want To Be Loved
Rufus Thomas was already forty-seven years old when this, his debut album, was released on the Stax label in 1963. It is a really good short serving of brass-powered soul that has a wonderful sound quality, considering its age. Thomas's vocals are gruffly uplifting and his musicians are outstanding - horns, saxophones, bass, drums and backing vocalist all giving it everything. This album would have been hugely influential on all those British blues boom bands. It still sounds great today. Thomas, of course, went on to have a big hit with Do The Funky Chicken.
The Dog is a bubbling, brassy groove loaded with funky horns and a surprisingly clear, warm sound for 1964. Some howling dog noises are in there too. Another dance craze-inspired song is up next in the lively "yeah-yeah" sound of Mashed Potatoes. The vocals are only interjectory, it is all about the pumping brass-driven sound.
Ooh-Poo-Pah-Doo is a grooving, chugging, call-and-response piece of bluesy brassy soul. You Said is an appealing mid-pace ballad with a rock'n'roll influence. It features some superb baritone saxophone too. Thomas covers John Lee Hooker's Boom Boom excellently, with a vibrant upbeat sound and the now obligatory top notch brass.
It's Aw'rite is a punchy number that I can imagine Southside Johnny loving. Check out that great guitar break mid-song. Walking The Dog is known to many by now, having been covered by many, including The Rolling Stones on their first album. It is a delicious slice of funky soul and I never tire of it.
Ya Ya kicks ass, big time. Once more get an earful of that sax. Again, it reminds me a lot of the material on Southside Johnny's first album. Land Of 1000 Dances has its definitive version in the hands of Wilson Pickett, of course, but here Thomas slows it down thus taking away must of its irresistible, stomping joie de vivre. Sorry, Rufus, your version doesn't quite do it for me.
The bass on the Walking The Dog re-write of Can Your Monkey Do The Dog positively shakes my speakers, it is so beautifully deep. This track cooks from beginning to end. 'Cause I Love You is a soulful but upbeat duet with one of Thomas's backing vocalist (I'm not sure who). Once more it positively bristles and crackles with funky soul. I Want To Be Loved has an infectious drum, guitar and bass rhythm to it and another gritty vocal. All copper-bottomed early Stax soul. What an invigorating twenty-nine minutes.