Pop/Rock/World CD Reviews
Allen Toussaint – Songbook – Rounder Records
Published on August 10, 2013
Allen Toussaint – Songbook – Rounder Records 1161-9154-2PA , 78:30 ****:
(Allen Toussaint, piano and vocals)
When you think of New Orleans rhythm and blues, mating with soul and a bit of funk, the name of Allen Toussaint comes immediately to mind. Allen wears many hats on the New Orleans scene – producer, legendary songwriter, performer, and incubator of talent. Born in 1938, and active in NOLA since the 1960s, Allen has had the pulse of what is happening in The Crescent City so long, he immediately comes to mind to for his seal of approval. From working with The Meters, Dr. John, and from songs like “Southern Nights”, “What Do you Want the Girl to Do” and “Freedom from the Stallion” (both covered by Boz Scaggs), Allen has been on the cutting edge of New Orleans soulfulness.
On Songbook Allen gets sole center stage doing introductions in a laid back manner to songs he either wrote, produced, or were made famous by a who’s who of music. Songbook is special is Toussaint as is unencumbered by accompanying musicians and gets to show his piano prowess, ranging from stride, funky chords, to effortless piano runs.
Written for Irma Thomas, “It’s Raining”, opens Songbook as Toussaint’s laconic vocals sung with no pretension, mix with laid back-chording much like Randy Newman (another Louisianan). “Brickyard Blues” is a rollicking treat and Allen is joyful striding thru this favorite.
“Get Out of My Life Woman” is boasted by Allen as his tune that may have been recorded by more musicians than any other of his hits. “Freedom of the Stallion” both done by The Oak Ridge Boys and Boz Scaggs has always been one of my favorites as its relaxed groove and preaching to the congregation lyrics are contagious.
Most of the 25 tracks are under four minutes, but “Southern Nights” is the exception at an expansive 13 minutes, well worth the experience as Toussaint’s lengthy introduction of this classic tune leads to an early falsetto like vocal before Allen tells the story of his father taking him out to the country to visit kinfolk. Showing Toussaint’s influence outside the New Orleans crowd, none other than Glen Campbell covered this track with a country pop version.
With his songbook spreading to Bonnie Raitt, Joe Cocker, Elvis Costello, and Three Dog Night, Toussaint’s influence was profound enough that he was admitted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, finally getting his due.
With Songbook, we get a chance to go to the source for an understated, yet soulful live session with the master. Songbook will also be issued as a deluxe version with a DVD added soon.
TrackList: Introduction, It’s Raining, Lipstick Traces, Intro to Brickyard Blues, Brickyard Blues, With You in Mind, Who’s Gonna Help Brother Get Further, Sweet Touch of Love, Holy Cow, Intro to Get Out of My Life Woman, Get Out of My Life, Woman, Freedom for The Stallion, St. James Infirmary, Intro to Shrimp Po-Boy, Dressed, Shrimp Po-Boy, Dressed, Soul Sister, All These Things, We Are America/Yes We Can, The Optimism Blues, Old Records, Certain Girl Medley: Certain Girl/Mother In Law/Fortune Teller/Working in a Coal Mine, It’s a New Orleans Thing, I Could Eat Crawfish Everyday, No Place Like New York, Southern Nights