Charles Berry, like Henry Moore, is most associated with the odious Houston record man and paedophile Huey P Meaux. His 45s for Jetstream are all well worth checking out, as is his LP for Crazy Cajun, if you can find it. So much of Meaux’s music was half formed, more like demos than fully realised tracks. And indeed there are a few cuts on the album, like the accapella “Have You Seen My Girl” which are really good for checking out Berry’s voice, which passes the test really well, but are more curiosity pieces than anything else.
Berry’s first release included a fine self-penned blues ballad called Hep To Your Jive on which his hoarse toned vocal sounded really fine despite the “lo fi” production on which the horns are way too far down in the mix. His second 45, which sounds as though it was cut at the same session, was the original version of “Neighbour Neighbour” best known to soul fans as Jimmy Hughes’ big hit from a couple of years later. This classic song was written by local writer/arranger Alton Valier, but by the time Hughes cut it the song credit read “Huey Meaux”. What a surprise. The flip side is a deep ballad called Time, and is my personal favourite of his single sides. Everything about it is just right for me – the chord structure, the strummed guitar and the horn flourishes, but best of all is Berry’s downbeat vocal, hoarse and so effective.
Charles’ third 45 has a very tasty piece of R & B called “Don’t Call On Me” on it, which has an almost Tex-Mex feel to it. His final release “It Went To Your Head” is a really good Texas R & B shuffle with punchy horns.
In the mid 70s Huey Meaux released an LP of Berry’s sides, named after the most recognisable song that Berry cut, “Neighbour Neighbour”. The ten sides included three that had appeared on 45s, plus several fine cuts that never made it to 45, like the chugging Half A Man which shows of his gruff, throaty vocals really well, and the similarly styled “You Wouldn’t Recognise Me”. Really good music.
Berry’s final recordings were for Skippy Lee Frazier’s Ovide concern. Sadly neither the appeal to the Prseidnet entitled “Father Of The Nation” nor the semi-autobiographical “Isn’t That Something” are out of the top drawer, despite his fine vocal performances.
Hep to your jive / The guinea ~ JETSTREAM 704 (1965)
Time / Neighbour neighbour ~ JETSTREAM 708 (1965)
Don’t call on me / I’m a poor boy ~ JETSTREAM 722 (1967)
Charlena / It went to your head ~ JETSTREAM 728 (1967)
Father of the land / Isn’t that something ~ OVIDE 244 (1968?)
Neighbour neighbour ~ CRAZY CAJUN 1060 (1978)