Back in 1995, Rhino released a set called Funkify Your Life: The Meters Anthology
, a double-disc compilation that rounded up 43 singles and album tracks in what appeared to be the final word on the seminal New Orleans soul band. Released some 21 years later, Real Gone Music's Message from the Meters: The Complete Josie, Reprise & Warner Bros. Singles 1968-1977
is a little more exacting in its approach: it focuses just on songs that made their way to a 7," so it excises the longer loose-limbed jams and demonstrations of instrumental prowess showcased on Funkify Your Life
. In some respects, this performs a slight disservice to the Meters
-- they may not have made concept albums but certainly used the form of a long-player to strut their stuff -- but by focusing on their tightest material, A Message from the Meters
emphasizes how their groove never remained static, how they were flexible enough to dip their toes into disco without losing sight of their identity. By marching through the 45s in chronological order -- the entire first disc is in glorious, gritty mono -- the Meters seem vibrant and ever-changing, while remaining true to their bayou beat. Sometimes their attempts at riding coattails are conceptually a little silly -- witness "Stretch Your Rubber Band" -- but the group is so dexterous, so natural in its grooves, that it's impossible not to smile. Such is the brilliance of A Message from the Meters
: by concentrating on the singles, the compilation winds up tying the Meters to their time a little tightly, but that only illustrates how the group was exceptional, a band defined by its interplay, not trends.