Tuesday, 2 February 2016

"Life, Love And Faith/Southern Nights/Motion" by ALLEN TOUSSAINT (2015 Beat Goes On 2CD Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...


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In November 2009 me and 'she who must be paid on Fridays' went to see The Blind Boys Of Alabama do a one-off gig at the Barbican Theatre in London. We took our cheap-as-politicians £10 seats and out came a lone 'Southern gentleman' who sat down at his beautiful Steinway piano and smiled at the shuffling crowd. Most were there to hear The Blind Boys do 'The Wire' theme song (their wickedly good cover of Tom Waits' "Down In The Hole") – but some were more excited about this support act – ALLEN TOUSSAINT. He began in on his staggering repertoire that goes back to his days with Fats Domino in the Fifties and then as a writer with Minit Records from 1960 onwards.

After several recognisable classics (hits from Clarence Frogman Henry, Ernie K Doe and the lovely "With You In Mind" which Art Neville made a feature in 1991 on his "Warm Your Heart" album) – he smiled and said "...here's another song you might know..." A slow buzz began going around the hall - this New Orleans tunesmith guy is a bit special and goes 'way back'. And he was special. I couldn't believe my luck. Ten quid for this double dose of genius! Toussaint was typically brilliant – chatty, humble, steeped in decades of musical history. It was magical really. The Blind Boys and him even signed CDs after the gig in the foyer (old school class). Allen Toussaint sadly passed in November 2015 – one of the great 'backroom boys' of Soul & New Orleans R&B. And that’s where this fab Beat Goes On twofer comes in. Here be the gentlemanly details...

UK released Friday, 27 November 2015 (December 2015 in the USA) – "Life, Love And Faith/Southern Nights/Motion" by ALLEN TOUSSAINT on Beat Goes On BGOCD 1211 (Barcode 5017261212115) offers 3LPs onto 2CDs and plays out as follows:

Disc 1 (74:22 minutes):
1. Victims Of The Darkness
2. Am I Expecting Too Much?
3. My Baby Is The Real Thing
4. Goin' Down
5. She Once Belonged To Me
6. Out Of The City (Into Country Life)
7. Soul Sister – Side 2
8. Fingers And Toes
9. I've Got To Convince Myself
10. On My Way Down
11. Gone Too Far
12. Electricity
Tracks 1 to 12 are his 2nd album "Life, Love And Faith" – released July 1972 in the USA on Reprise Records MS 2060 and in the UK on Reprise K 44202.

13. Last Train
14. World Wide World Wide
15. Back In Baby's Arms
16. Country John
17. Basic Lady
18. Southern Nights
19. You Will Not Lose
20. What Do You Want The Girl To Do?
21. What The Party's Over
22. Cruel Way To Go Down
Tracks 13 to 22 are his 3rd album "Southern Nights" – released May 1975 in the USA on Reprise MS 2186 and in the UK on Reprise K 54021

Disc 2 (39:46 minutes):
1. Night People
2. Just A Kiss Away
3. With You In Mind
4. Lover Of Love
5. To Be With You
6. Motion – Side 2
7. Viva La Money
8. Declaration Of Love
9. Happiness
10. The Optimism Blues
Tracks 1 to 10 are his 4th album "Motion" – released July 1978 in the USA on Reprise BSK 3142 and in the UK on Reprise K 56473.

As befits a maverick of his stature – the 24-page booklet is properly chunky and Mojo’s principal Jazz/Soul writer CHARLES WARING is enjoying himself recounting Toussaint's many (largely unheralded) achievements. There are album credits for all three LPs, discussions of his long history in the American Music business and it even reproduces the Lee Hildebrand liner notes for his 1972 Reprise Records debut album "Life, Love And Faith" on Pages 3 to 5. ANDREW THOMPSON has carried out the new 2015 Remasters/Transfers and they sing like a Dixie Band stepping lively behind a casket on a sunny afternoon. These CDs sound fabulous...and on many of the groovy passages in songs like "Out Of The City (Into Country Life)" or the busy changes in the album cut of "Country John" (which has a flanged "Southern Nights" refrain) – all pack a really great sonic punch.

A bit of history first. Although not covered by this BGO compilation - Toussaint’s debut album "Toussaint" from 1970 on Scepter Records got him accolades as a songwriter of repute. That knack for penning a melody/groove also got his songs covered by a huge array of musical luminaries with Soul tingling in their Souls. British vocalist Frankie Miller gave a whole album over to his songs in "High Life" from 1974 on Chrysalis. Robert Palmer did "Night People" on his "Double Fun" LP in 1974 – Bonnie Raitt covered "What Do You Want The Girl To Do?" on her "Home Plate" album in 1975, one of the outtakes that turned up on the 2CD Rhino reissue of Little Feat's magnificent live album "Waiting For Columbus" was Toussaint's "On My Way Down" - and as recent as 2000 Mavis Staples did "Last Train" on her gorgeous "You Are Not Alone" album with Jeff Tweedy of Wilco. The strutting Guitar-Funk-Fest that is "Goin' Down" has turned on no less than three hip WEA compilations for Rare Groove tracks – "Right On! Volume 3" (2001), "Funk Drops 2" (2002) and the wickedly good "What It Is!" 4CD Rhino box set from 2006 (see my detailed review).

As is witnessed by the credits on the rear of the 1972 vinyl LP – "Life, Love And Faith" featured a huge ensemble of musicians – members of his family and most especially members of the New Orleans Funk band The Meters (George Porter, Jr., Joseph Modeliste and Leo Nocentelli). Toussaint sang, played keyboards, acoustic guitar, harmonica and wrote/arranged all the songs. Reprise tried the slinky 'bad boots' Side 2 opener "Soul Sister" b/w "She Once Belonged To Me" as a 7” single in September 1975 on both sides of the pond (Reprise REP 1109, USA – Reprise K 14200, UK) – but it didn't make too much of an impact (good but not memorable enough for either pallet). They made the big mistake of not choosing the relentless funk of "Goin' Down" as the lead off single (now a darling of Rare Groove CD compilations), but alas. Apparently "Am I Expecting Too Much" made promo-stage on 7" in the States (Reprise REP 1132) but despite the fantastic funk in the tune – it didn't take either.

His 3rd album 1975's "Southern Nights" is probably his most popular. The productions values certainly shot through the roof – "Last Train" feeling a little the Average White Band with a different vocalist - while the mid-tempo Sax strut of "Worldwide" has more than a shade of The Meters. "Back In My Baby's Arms" is properly lovely – a sweet lilt that soothes - Arthur Neville on Organ with Deborah Paul, Joan Harmon and Sharon Neborn tearing up the backing vocals with some Soulful harmonising. The title track has always been a barnstormer whenever he did it live – a very pretty melody – and I'd swear John Lennon nicked that treated vocal sound for "Beautiful Boy" on his "Double Fantasy" album in 1980.

A West Coast stellar cast came together for 1978's "Motion" album – Larry Carlton on Guitar, Richard Tee on Piano, Chuck Rainey & Pops Popwell (of The Crusaders) on Bass, Jeff Porcaro on Drum with Bonnie Raitt, Rosemary Butler and Chess Records legend Etta James leant backing vocals to five songs (Tracks 1, 3, 6, 7 and 8). The brilliant New Orleans Funk of "Night People" opens the album on a stormer. The piano-funky "Country John" was edited for 7" single release in the USA on Reprise RPS 1334 with the chipper "When The Party's Over" on the flipside – but despite two strong sides – it failed to chart. A gorgeous album nugget is the six-minute title track "Motion" – a sweetheart of a song that swings along so sweetly and sounding just superb here (an impressive trio of ladies Etta James, Bonnie Raitt and Rosemary Butler bring up the "I love you" harmonies). And how gorgeous is "With You In Mind" - the kind of melody/lyric that sends the chills up the arms...

So if Toussaint was 'so good' you say - why wasn't he huge? Like Bill Withers or Al Green - Toussaint could pen the tunes and get those grooves but unlike them - he arguably hadn't the greatest of voices (good rather than being memorable). Perhaps that's why he always seemed on the fringes...other people/top voices making his great songs shine...

Whatever way you look at it - this is a fantastic release. In fact I also bought the Raven 2CD set "Toussaint: The Real Thing 1970-1975" from 2015 that lines up the first three albums – so it includes "Toussaint" from 1970 as well as "Life, Love And Faith" and "Southern Nights" (Raven RVCD-386). It has a 12-page booklet and gorgeous audio too care of Remaster Engineer Warren Barnett.

Whichever 2CD reissue you buy - you're quid's in – wonderful music and presentation in both instances. The great man deserved to be remembered this well and both Beat Goes On of the UK and Raven of Australia have done so...and with real style...






This review is part of my SOUNDS GOOD Music Book Series. One of those titles is SOUL, FUNK and JAZZ FUSION - Exceptional CD Remasters - an E-Book with over 245 entries and 2100 e-Pages - purchase on Amazon and search any artist or song (click the link below). Huge amounts of info taken directly from the discs (no cut and paste crap). 

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