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The Original Roland Stone: Remember Me

★★★½


ROLAND LEBLANC became Roland Stone when he joined the Skyliners, led by teen-ager Mac Rebennack, in 1959. After recording a series of singles that were popular primarily in and around New Orleans, Stone disappeared from view, while his mentor went on to become Dr. John. When Orleans Records' Carlo Ditta located him, Stone was living quietly in the Crescent City, running a family cleaning business. But Remember Me is no mere comeback album. With the help of a splendid small combo that includes original Skyliners Dr. John and bassist-guitarist Earl Stanley, Stone has made one of the most stylish, soulful and grittily convincing New Orleans R&B albums in years.

From the first authoritative whipcrack of John Vidacovich's snare drum and the opening flourishes of Dr. John's down-in-the-alley piano, it's evident that for these musicians, '50s-style rhythm & blues never died. Then Stone's rich, tensile marvel of a voice comes sliding in sideways, wrapping a different texture around every note and finding an eccentric but appropriate spin for every phrase, and idiom seems irrelevant.

Stone and friends rock and roll their way through a well-chosen program of uptempo covers, but the ballads are the heart of the matter. And Stone is one guy who really could keep you entertained singing the phone book, a singer's singer who can throw in a playful turn of phrase or lavishly embroider a single syllable without ever compromising the integrity of a strong melodic line or the emotional imperative of a telling lyric. "The Masquerade Is Over," "Try the Impossible," and Dr. John's sly after-hours original "Remember Me" are ballad performances that are fresh, musical, and thoroughly inhabited. Dr. John himself is fully in his element, playing piano with a restless, probing intensity that makes most of his recent recordings sound almost tame. Remember Me, a heartfelt gem of an album, is hard to forget.

Remember Me is available from Orleans Records, [address relocated].

---Robert Palmer

 

Originally published in Rolling Stone, Issue 668 [October 28th, 1993], pg. 80-81

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