Sir John Falstaff is the hero in this compilation of extracts from Shakespeare's 'Henry IV' and other plays, made into a connected story of Falstaff's career as young Prince Hal's drinking companion. The massive knight roisters with and without the prince, philosophizes comically, goes to war (in his own fashion), and meets his final disappointment, set in a real-looking late-medieval England.
Wisely, Shout! Factory has picked up Maria Muldaur's two early-'90s recordings – this one and Louisiana Love Call – from the defunct Black Top label for reissue. While both these recordings are excellent, it's Meet Me at Midnite that offers a portrait of the artist as a hardcore R&B singer of the highest order. Produced by John Porter, Muldaur surrounds herself with crack studio players including Rick Vito, Johnny Lee Schell, Hutch Hutchinson, Bill Payne, and a slew of others. Where Louisiana Love Call focused on the music of New Orleans, Meet Me at Midnite digs deep into various dimensions of the Memphis sound – soul, R&B, and blues – and concentrates on the myriad stages and phases of love. While it's true that the set opens with "Trouble With My Lover" by the Crescent City's Allen Toussaint, its vibe is pure Memphis: funky, dirty grooves, packed in a tight cut-time beat and Muldaur shouting the blues with a big, clear ringing voice that wrenches emotion from every syllable.
There are plenty of suspects when an unscrupulous, blackmailing businessman turns up dead, especially the Police Commissioner's current paramour, who actually confessed to the killing before it was committed.
Falling asleep during the Paradise Coffee ("The Coffee that Makes You Sleep") Program, the band's third trumpeter dreams he's Athanael, an angel deputized to blow the Last Trumpet at exactly midnight on Earth. But Osidro and Doremus, two fallen angels enjoying the physical pleasures of an earthly existence, try to steal Athanael's trumpet, enlisting the aid of suave jewel thief Archie Dexter. Athanael fumbles his first try when he saves Archie's accomplice, Fran, from suicide. His second chance seems doomed when he's forced to leave his trumpet as security for a meal he can't pay for. But he gets it back just in time for a final confrontation with his desperate adversaries, dangling with them from the roof, only seconds from Midnight.