A Youtube audio you can play while you're reading this:
Biography: Allen Toussaint was the key figure in defining the sound of New Orleans R&B and funk throughout the 1960's and 70's. He wrote and produced many of the hits by the Neville Brothers, the Meters, Irma Thomas, Lee Dorsey, Dr. John and Ernie K. Doe. He played piano on many of these hits as well, bringing the New Orleans piano sound of Fats Domino and Professor Longhair into the funk era. Some of Toussaint's most famous songs include "Working In a Coalmine", "Everything I Do Gon' Be Funky", "Ride Your Pony". Most of the modern funk bands from New Orleans would have to cite Toussaint as a major influence. As a songwriter, producer, arranger, pianist and singer, this guy does it all.
Now 71, Toussaint got his start playing Crescent City clubs in his teens, and his first big break laying down piano tracks for some of Fats Domino's recordings in the mid-50s. By the early 60's he was producing hits for Irma Thomas and others and had developed a signature sound, laying down a solid rhythm and giving the horns more freedom to improvise, as opposed to the earlier ensemble second-line sound. When Toussaint finished his stint in the army in 1965, he formed Sansu records with Marshall Sehorn, assembling a funky, percussive house band for the label that would later become the Meters, one of the best-loved instrumental funk bands of all time.
In the 1970's, Toussaint released a string of excellent albums, most notably 1971's Toussaint (remastered as From A Whisper to a Scream. He also wrote and produced a number of hits for other artists, including Labelle's "Lady Marmalade" and the Pointer Sister's "Happiness".
The Wild Sound of New Orleans (1958) - Toussaint's first record, released in 1958, consists of 12 short, soulful instrumentals with a backing band and horn section. Only digitally available on German import.
Toussaint (1971) - A diverse, textured classic that shows Toussaint's versatility on a variety of vocal and instrumental tracks, ranging from funk to more jazzy numbers. Dr. John supports on this album. In my opinion, the best place to start. Remastered as "From a Whisper to a Scream".
Southern Nights (1975) - His funkiest album, marked with a touch of psychedelia. The title track later became a huge hit for country singer Glen Campbell, and "What Do You Want the Girl to Do?" was covered by Bonnie Raitt. Great horn arrangements throughout.
Motion (1978) - This album is pretty different from Toussaint's earlier work, since it was produced by Atlantic production genius Jerry Wexler. As a result, it's not nearly as raw and funky, but much more slick and perhaps more low-key. Great background music.
I Believe to My Soul (2005) - Actually, this one is "Various Artists", but Allen Toussaint plays piano throughout the record (except for a couple of tracks with Billy Preston) and assembled the backing band. And his tracks on it are phenomenal. Since there are some more recent compositions on here, some chance we could hear some of these at Roo. Other vocalists featured on here are Ann Peebles, Mavis Staples, and Irma Thomas, all of whom sound phenomenal.
The River In Reverse (2006) - His album with Elvis Costello. The two played Bonnaroo together in 2006 and both will be back this year, so there could be a collaboration or two. I'd highly recommend this one for Elvis Costello fans who aren't too familiar with Toussaint.
The Bright Mississippi (2009) - I don't think this one has been released yet. This is an all-instrumental disc of classic New Orleans jazz tunes, by greats like Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet, Jelly Roll Morton and others. All star backing band for the occasion includes Don Byron, Nicholas Payton, and Marc Ribot. Here's a great review of it: www.dustedmagazine.com/reviews/4899
Sounds Like: Allen Toussaint is the sound of New Orleans: gritty and funky, but at the same time, sweet, smooth and mellow.
Similar Artists: Dr. John, The Meters, The Neville Brothers Similar Bonnaroo Artists: Not too many this year... but he is certainly an influence on Galactic, Phish, Erykah Badu, Al Green and Booker T, among others.
Suggested Listening: While the track I played above is an instrumental track, I'm guessing the majority of the songs he plays will have vocals. Allen Toussaint's sweet, smooth voice is one of things I'm most looking forward to hearing at Bonnaroo this year. This song (also audio only), since used in an Axe commercial, gives a good example of that:
That song and "Louie" are both on From A Whisper to a Scream.
Allen Toussaint really made the career of the great New Orleans soul singer Irma Thomas. Here's a great duet of them from the 80s:
If you like that one, I'd highly recommend picking up the I Believe To My Soul compilation.
Toussaint's songs have been mined by numerous other artists who have had great success covering his songs. Herb Alpert had a huge hit with "Whipped Cream", which later became the theme song for The Dating Game. Here are some vids of Toussaint performing songs he wrote that other people made into big hits:
"Pain in My Heart", which was a hit for Otis Redding:
A killer performance of Brickyard Blues, later made famous by Three Dog Night:
Lipstick Traces on a Cigarette, famously covered by the Rolling Stones:
Here's a great performance of "Happiness", which became a hit for the Pointer sisters:
Physical Reaction/Live Show: I've never seen Allen Toussaint before, and I have no idea what sort of ensemble he'll bring to Bonnaroo, but I'd guess that he'll have a bassist, drummer, some backup vocalists, probably a guitar player and a horn section. It will be soulful, funky, and laid-back. There will be plenty of dancing, but this will also be a good show to sit/lay down at the back and dig the mellow vibe.
Personal Notes Allen Toussaint is a musical genius, a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and a national treasure. Given his advanced age, he might not be around for too much longer, and he doesn't play outside of New York and New Orleans too frequently these days. So do yourself a favor and go see him when you can!
Also, Phish used to cover "Sneakin Sally Through the Alley". And I think the "Get Out My Life Woman" cover is actually the Jerry band, not the Dead. Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi covered that song in their Soul Stew Revival tour. A great tune.
Great job brewboss. You got me interested and I'm pretty sure I downloaded the 1971 Toussaint album. On iTunes it was called Sweet Touch of Love, but had the same cover and the first track was from A Whisper to a Scream. GREAT music.
I have always known his name, but I have never taken an interest in his solo stuff before. I'm thinking I will try out Southern Nights next.
I have the Dr. John and Fats Domino posters by the same artist. Stupidly, I sold the Louis Armstrong a few years ago to a guy who proposed to his wife at JazzFest that year (that poster is now over $1,200). This Toussaint will round out my hallway display nicely.
I ran in to Mr. Toussaint on the street during the JazzFest after Katrina. He is such a kind gentleman. I'm really looking forward to his 'Roo set!
Post by steveternal on Apr 21, 2009 12:38:15 GMT -5
I've been trying to find out what kind of a show Toussaint will be doing this year-- will it be a bebop-type show in support of the new album (and featuring the Bright Mississippi Band), or will it be a more classic soul/R&B show with him playing lots of his classic tunes? I emailed Bonnaroo to get an answer but haven't heard back.