Allen Toussaint


Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1  

- Allen Toussaint (aka Tousan, Naomi Neville, Clarence Toussaint) 

  -- vocals, keyboards, harmonica

 

  backing musicians: (1970)

- John Boudreaux -- drums, percussion

- Merry Clayton -- backing vocals

- Venetta Fields -- backing vocals

- Eddie Hohner -- bass

- Clyde Kerr -- trumpet

- Terry Kellman -- guiatr

- Mac Rebennack (aka Dr. John) -- organ, guitar

- Freddie Staehle -- guitar

- Earl Turbinton -- sax

 

  backing musicians: (1977)

- Carl Blouin -- sax

- Gary Brown -- sax

- Lester Caliste -- trombone

- Joan Harmon -- backing vocals

- Steve Howard -- trumpet

- Claude Kerr Jr. -- trumpet

- Ziggy Modeliste -- drums, percussion

- Charles Victor Moore -- guitar

- Jim Moore -- flute, sax

- Sharon Neborn -- backing vocals

- Arthur Neville -- organ

- Leo Nocentelli -- guitar

- Deborah Paul -- backing vocals

- George Porter Jr. -- bass

- Leon Price -- flute, sax

- Alfred Roberts -- percussion

- Teddy Royal -- guitar

- Clyde Williams -- drums, percussion

 

  backing musicians: (1978)

- Rosemary Butler -- backing vocals

- Larry Carlton -- lead guitar

- Paulinho Da Costa -- percussion

- Victor Feldman -- percussion

- Etta James (RIP) - backing vocals

- Bonnie Raitt -- backing vocals

- Jeff Pocarao -- drums, percussion

- Robert Popwell -- bass

- Chuck Rainey -- bass

- Jessica Smith -- backing vocals

- Richard Tee -- keyboards

- Julia Tillman -- backing vocals

- Maxine Willard -- backing vocals

 

 

 

- Allen and Allen

- Crescent City Gold

- The Flamingoes

- The Rubaiyats

- The Strokes

- Al Tousan

- Tousan

- Willie and Allen

- The Young Ones

 

 

 


 

Genre: soul

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:  Toussaint

Company: Scepter

Catalog: SPS 24003
Year:
 1970

Country/State: Louisiana

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: SOLD

Catalog ID: SOLD 2027

Price: SOLD $20.00

 

Hard to believe it, but 1970's "Toussaint" was Allen Toussaint's first album in twelve years.  At the time he was a mega star in his native New Orleans and had among a small, but cult following and had provided scores of other artists with hits.  Against that backdrop, mainstream listeners didn't have a clue who he was.  You had to wonder how such a talented guy could be overlooked by the American music establishment for such a long period ...

 

Depending on your perspective, "Toussaint" qualified as groundbreaking, or merely a highly erratic collection.   I've listened to the album dozens of times and I'll readily admit feeling both ways about it. Side one featured a dazzling collection of soul-influenced originals.  To my ears there wasn't a single loser across the first five songs, which made it hard to pick a favorite.  Perhaps because it was a treat to hear Toussaint interpreting his own work, I've always been partial to 'From a Whisper To a Scream' and 'Working In a Coal Mine' - both hits for Lee Dorsey.  In contrast, side two has always been the mystery to me.  Many reviews refer to it as the instrumental side.  Technically that wasn't true since it started with the vocal 'Everything I Do Gonna Be Funky'.   As for the other four tunes, it seemed unlikely that Toussaint had un out of material for the album.  At the same time I've always wondered if the instrumental heavy track listing was a reflection of doubts about his own vocal abilities, or perhaps he was simply trying to showcase his talents as a keyboardist.   Instrumentals like 'Pickles', 'Louie' and his cover of Vince Guaraldi's early-'60s hit 'Cast Your Fate To the Wind' weren't bad, but just lacked the spunk of his funkier vocal numbers.

 

"Toussaint" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) From a Whisper To a Scream   (Allen Toussaint) - 3:27

Toussaint originally wrote the tune for his buddy Lee Dorsey.  It's been covered by dozens of artists over the years, but Toussaint's soulful, haunting version remains the classic take.  The song was also released as a single - originally on the Scepter Records affiliated Tiffany imprint, with Scepter itself subsequently re-issuing the 45:

- 1970's 'From a Whisper to a Scream ' b/w 'Sweet Touch of Love'  (Tiffany catalog number TIF 9015)  

- 1970's 'From a Whisper to a Scream ' b/w 'Sweet Touch of Love'  (Scepter catalog number SCE 12317)   

 It's just Toussaint on piano, but  YouTube has a fantastic 2013 performance of the tune at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ne1jTJxerEI  rating: **** stars

2.) Chokin' Kind   (Harlan Howard) - 3:23

Waylon Jennings in 1967 may have had the original hit, but I grew up with the Joe Simon hit.  I certainly love Simon's cover but have to admit that Toussaint's sweet and respectful cover was almost as good.   Shame that people under 40 only seem to know Joss Stone's shrill and irritating cover.  If you're going to listen to this tune go for the Joe Simon version, followed by Toussaint's cover.   Interesting to note the credits got the writer's name wrong - they showed it as 'H. Harlan'.   rating: **** stars

3.) Sweet Touch of Love   (Allen Toussaint) - 3:20

One of Toussaint's most mainstream soul tunes and you're left to wonder how it was possible for radio to miss out on this fabulous tune.   The song was original the flip side to the 'From a Whisper to a Scream' single.  Even more criminal was the fact the song was re-purposed for an Axe Chocolate cologne commercial.    rating: **** stars

4.) What Is Success   (Allen Toussaint) - 3:34

One of my all-time favorite Toussaint tunes ...  There's just something way cool in his stuttering piano chords ...  Featuring Toussaint and Bonnie Raitt (who had recorded the song on one her albums), YouTube has a wonderful 2006 performance of the tune at New Orleans Saenger Theater: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1Fc9OERsZU   rating: **** stars

5.) Working In a Coal Mine    (Allen Toussaint) - 3:11

99.9% of folks who've heard 'Working In a Coal Mine' know the Lee Dorsey cover (most folks probably not realizing Toussaint wrote the tune).   I'll readily admit Dorsey's version is the popular classic, but Toussaint's version is well worth checking out.  Not quite as bouncy, but his version stayed close to the original arrangement while showcasing that silky soul voice.  Would love to know who provided the great guitar licks ...  Freddie Staehle ?   Scepter tapped this one as another single:

- 1971's 'Working in the Coal Mine' b/w 'What Is Success' (Scepter catalog number SCE 12334)   rating: **** stars

 

(side 2)

1.) Everything I Do Gonna Be Funky    (Allen Toussaint)- 3:12

'Everything I Do Gonna Be Funky; was apparently another tune intended for buddy Lee Dorsey.  Smooth and slinky with a country-edge, given the caliber of Toussaint version, you had to wonder why he continued giving away his material.   YouTube has a nifty 2013 solo performance at the Franklin Theater:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sC8is1HUfrg   rating: **** stars

2.) Pickles (instrumental)   (Allen Toussaint) - 4:27

Interesting instrumental that spotlighted Toussaint's keyboards and sounded a bit like a cross between some of Steely Dan's jazzier interludes with a touch of Liberace thrown in the middle.   rating: *** stars

3.) Louie (instrumental)   (Allen Toussaint) - 3:04

Nice keyboard dominated instrumental, though the pseudo-jazzy vibe has always reminded me a bit of something off of a Vince Guaraldi composition for a Peanuts cartoon.  rating: *** stars

4.) Either (instrumental)    (Allen Toussaint) - 2:52

Short instrumental that was funkier that then others, though the horn riff always makes me wonder if the album has a skip.   rating: *** stars

5.) Cast Your Fate To the Wind (instrumental)  (Vince Guaraldi - Row) - 3:19

Speaking of Vince Guaraldi, 'Cast Your Fate To the Wind' provided the man with a Grammy Award winner for Best Original Jazz composition back in 1963.   In spite of some bluesy piano touches Toussaint didn't stray far from the original arrangement which kind of left you wondering why he bothered with the cover.    rating:** stars

 

 

In 1985 the Kent label reissued the album under the title "From A Whisper To A Scream" (Kent catalog number KENT 036).  The reissue featured a slightly reordered track listing and one bonus track - the instrumental 'Number Nine'.  

 

 

 


Genre: soul

Rating: 5 stars *****

Title:  Southern Nights

Company: Edsel

Catalog: 
Year:
 1985

Country/State: Louisiana

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: UK reissue

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 2011

Price: $35.00

Crap, what was I thinking ?   Over the last ten years I've sold at least a dozen copies of this album and though I always intended to give it a spin, I never got around to doing so.   No idea why it didn't happen.  I've always liked Allen Toussaint and have a bunch of his albums in my collection.   Maybe it had something to do with Glenn Campbell's hit cover of the title track ?  Indifference ?  Laziness ?  Whatever the reason, having finally listened to the album, al I can say I was stupid, stupid, stupid ...

 

While Toussaint had been recording since mid-'50s, 1975's "Southern Nights" was only his fourth studio album.  Co-produced by Toussaint and Marshall Sehorn, and his sophomore release for Reprise Records, the collection was apparently intended as an autobiographical concept piece, perhaps focusing on Toussaint's life in New Orleans. The "concept" comment comes from the fact the title track melody popped up repeatedly throughout the collection.   I'll readily admit much of the plotline was lost on me, but that doesn't detract anything from this album's charm.  I've always loved Toussaint's honey-smooth voice and surrounded by a totally unique mix of psych, funk, soul, and Creole touches, he's never sounded better.  having a top notch collection of backing musicians, including The Meters didn't hurt - bassist George Porter Jr was superb throughout. Other than the fact the album was too short (clocking in at about 35 minutes), my only problem with the collection was trying to decide which facet of Toussaint's talents I liked the most.   If pushed to make a choice, I guess I'd go for his class soul moves - tunes like 'Back In Baby's Arms', 'What Do You Want the Girl to Do ', and 'When the Party's Over'.   But then the funk moves were equally good ('Worldwide').  Darn, so were the more experimental efforts ...  At least in my book, this is one seriously rare album.  Literally a collection where there isn't a single song that I dislike.  Sure, there are a couple I don't like as much as the others ('')., but there wasn't a tune that I would skip over.   

 

And finally a quick word on the title track - In my earlier comments I meant no disrespect to the Glen Campbell cover.   Campbell and his producer turned in a killer cover, made even more impressive by the fact they were able to recognize the song's potential in Toussaint's strange, lysergic-tinged nightmare arrangement.

 

"Southern Nights" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Last Train   (Allen Toussaint) - 3:01

'Last Train' opened the album with a tune that should have been released as a single.  Kicked along by some amazing horns and one of the best bass lines I've ever heard (courtesy of George Porter Jr.), the tune had universal appeal with a fantastic blend of rock, soul, and funk influences and a refrain that was simply a classic - "You got me huffing and puffing and chugging like a choo choo train..."   I'm smiling as I type this.   rating: ***** stars

2.) Worldwide   (Allen Toussaint) - 2:42

Funk-meets Creole with dazzling results !!!   Wonder platform for Toussaint's mesmerizing voice.  I dare anyone to try to sit still through this one.   It's become a staple for sampling (OutKast grabbed if for 'We Luv Deez Hoez' and  KRS ONEborrowed it for 'Take These Rappers Out').      rating: **** stars

3.) Back In Baby's Arms   (Allen Toussaint) - 4:49

Propelled by another sterling Porter bass line 'Back In Baby's Arms' had a classic soul melody and feel, sounded way more 1965 than 1975.  By the way, that was meant as a major compliment.  Another magnificent Toussaint vocal with a great set of power-of-love lyrics.  Kudos to background singers Joan Harmon, Deborah Paul, and Sharon Neborn.    rating: **** stars

4.) Country John   (Allen Toussaint) - 4:45

On the surface this sounded a bit like one of those "story" soul tunes Clarence Carter rode to stardom.  The difference was Carter and his contemporaries never came up with a refrain as funky, or cool as this one.   While I love the song, it isn't the tune I would have tapped as a single:

- 1975's 'Country John' b/w When the Party's Over' (Reprise catalog number RPS 1334)   rating: *** stars

5.) Basic Lady   (Allen Toussaint) - 2:58

Unexpectedly sandwiched by opening and closing snippets of the 'Southern Nights' melody, 'Basic Lady' was the album's most straightforward and commercial soul offerings.   Nice double tracked Toussaint vocal with a killer sax solo.   rating: **** stars

 

(side 2)
1.) Southern Nights   (Allen Toussaint) - 3:36

As mentioned above, for better or worse, most folks know the title track from Glen Campbell's hit cover.   If you grew up with the hit version, then Toussaint's swampy, ghostly original was likely to come as a major surprise.  The underlying keyboard-propelled melody was familiar, but with Toussaint's vocals bathed in all sorts of strange effects (it sounded like it was channeled through a Leslie speaker), it took a moment to get your barings.   Once you got acclimated to this version, it was great.  YouTube has a wonderful version of Toussaint playing the song solo.  His opening comments are worth the price of admission, and yes he gets the same edgy sound without any effects:  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oGAFOz5GA8I   The song was simply too strange for American radio, but it was released as a single in the UK:

- 1975's 'Southern Night' b/w 'Out of the City (Into the country Life)' (Reprise catalog number K14385)

2.) You Will Not Lose   (Allen Toussaint) - 3:42

The album's sleeper tune, 'You Will Not Lose' had a strange counterpart structure and a melody that fell somewhere between swamper and German oom-pa-pa band.   Yeah, I can't even begin to describe it adequately, but it's great.   For what it's worth, Glen Campbell recorded a upbeat and poppier version of the tune for his 1990 album "Walkin' in the Sun".  Toussaint's original was tapped as a promo single, but seemingly never released in stock format:

- 1975's 'You Will Not Lose' b/w ' Basic Lady' (Reprise catalog number PRO-599):

3.) What Do You Want the Girl to Do   (Allen Toussaint) - 3:40

Sweet ballad with a stunning vocal and an almost criminally addictive hook.  It's one of his best known tunes with covers from a slew of artists including Lowell George (the best cover), Bonnie Raitt (with a slight change to the title 'What Do You Want the Boy to Do?'), and Boz Scaggs (the hit version).  YouTube has a nice clip of Toussaint performing the song at Seattle NPR radio station KPLU:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=liVv4PMPx2o    rating: **** stars

4.) When the Party's Over   (Allen Toussaint) - 2:38

Back to the old school sound that Toussaint manages to effortlessly churn out ...  Swaying beat, breezy vocal, great horns ...   near soul perfection.   rating: **** stars

5.) Cruel Way To Go Down   (Allen Toussaint) - 3:52

Nice bluesy ballad which showcased Toussaint's keyboard talents.   rating: *** stars

 

 

 

 


Genre: soul

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Motion

Company: Warner Brothers

Catalog:  BSK 3142
Year:
 1978

Country/State: Louisiana

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: promo stamp on cover

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 2023

Price: $15.00

 

On the heels of the magnificent "Southern Nights" I have to admit being a little surprised and a little disappointed by 1967's "Motion".   Working with legendary producer Jerry Wexler, the album found Allen Toussaint abandoning New Orleans to record in Los Angeles.  The collection also found Toussaint surrounding himself with a large entourage of sessions players including Larry Carlton, Victor Feldman, Jeff Porcaro, and Richard Tee.  Exemplified by tunes like 'Just A Kiss Away', 'Lover Of Love' and 'Declaration Of Love' the changes were quite apparent with Toussaint abandoning much of his New Orleans funkiness and quirkiness in favor of a professional, but ultimately bland collection of "love man" ballads.  His voice remained in a fine form and a major treat, but with the exception of 'Night People', 'Viva La Money', and 'The Optimism Blues' the results were just too smooth and kind of pedestrian. Blame Warner Brothers for trying to reshape Toussaint for a broader audience, but you would have expected much better from producer Wexler.

 

"Motion" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Night People   (Allen Toussaint) - 4:16

With a spare, percussion heavy and funky arrangement, 'Night People; got the album off to an interesting start.  Etta James and Bonnie Raitt were featured on backing vocals.   It's always struck me as kind of sad that more folks know the tune as a result of  Robert Palmer's rocked-up cover.  Palmer's version wasn't bad (I bought a copy of it), but Toussaint's original is way better.   Warner Brothers also released the song as a single:

- 1978's 'Night People' b/w 'Motion' (Warner Brothers catalog number WBS 8651)   rating: **** stars
2.) Just A Kiss Away   (Allen Toussaint) - 4:08

'Just a Kiss Away' was funky with plenty of Toussaint's keyboards, but had kind of a smooth, glacial studio polish that took away some of the tune's energy.  For anyone interested, guitarist Kristin Berglund
 does a nice cover of the tune.  
rating: **** stars
3.) With You In Mind   (Allen Toussaint) - 3:42

Pretty enough ballad, with Larry Carlton turning in a nice solo, though it was a tad AOR-ish and never really got going.   It actually sounded like it was written for some comedy/drama chick flick.   rating: *** stars
4.) Lover Of Love   (Naomi Neville) - 3:14

The lone non-original, the keyboard powered 'Lover of Love' was a breezy, slightly jazzy number that I have to admit was one of the sleepers on the album.   Great platform for Toussaint's special voice.    rating: **** stars
5.) To Be With You   (Allen Toussaint) - 3:25

 

(side 2)
1.) Motion   (Allen Toussaint) - 6:01

From the opening chords you could tell this was another tune that had been recorded with LA sessions players.  The title track was certainly a pretty enough ballad, with considerable commercial potential, but the tune had kind of a clinical sense of perfection which all but eliminated the special New Orleans sense of spontaneity found on Toussaint's best work.  Geez, it wasn''t too hard to picture Michael McDonald and the Doobies covering this one.   rating: *** stars
2.) Viva La Money   (Allen Toussaint) - 3:31

Bless his soul for taking a break from the polished ballads and taking a much needed stab at New Orleans-styled funk.   Slinky, funky, and a blast from start to finish, 'Viva the Money was one of the album highlights.   rating: **** stars
3.) Declaration Of Love   (Allen Toussaint) - 4:37

Bland adult contemporary ballad that was simply boring and forgettable.   rating:** stars
4.) Happiness   (Allen Toussaint) - 3:25

One of the few tunes that harkened back to his earlier, looser stylings.  Good tune.  The Pointer Sisters also turned in a nice cover of the  tune.   rating: *** stars
5.) The Optimism Blues   (Allen Toussaint) - 3:04

Yeah, it was a bit on the cheesy side, but compared to the hyper-produced love man ballads, 'The Optimism Blues' was a breath of fresh air.   rating: **** stars

 

 

 

 

 

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