Allen Toussaint – 1975 – Southern Nights

Damn great work from Allen Toussaint – a record that was cut at a time when he’d really made his way into the mainstream of American music, yet could still come across with a hard New Orleans groove! The title cut, “Southern Nights“, is a perfect illustration of this fact – as it was written by Toussaint, but became a big hit for Glen Campbell, who recorded a very soppy version of the number. Yet here, Allen turns it into a weird trippy tune – produced with great Sansu production, and backing by New Orleans legends like Leo Nocentelli, George Porter, and Art Neville – all of whom help the tune bristle with new energy, and a really sinister groove. The rest of the record continues in a similar vein – with a spacey LA mellow sound that actually works great for Toussaint’s vocals, and gives them a wild flanged-out sound that’s pretty amazing – and downright spooky at points!

A1 Last Train 2.59        
A2 WorldWide 2.47        
A3 Back In Baby’s Arms  4.45    
A4 Country John 4.46        
A5 Basic Lady 2.58        
B1 Southern Nights 3.38        
B2 You Will Not Lose 3.42        
B3 What Do You Want The Girl To Do? 3.41         
B4 When The Party ‘s Over 2.37        
B5 Cruel Way To Go Down 3.54

Allen Toussaint produced a kind of masterpiece with his first Reprise album, Life, Love and Faith, finding previously unimagined variations on his signature New Orleans R&B sound. For its 1975 sequel, Southern Nights, he went even further out, working with producer Marshall Sehorn to create a hazy vague concept album that flirted with neo-psychedelia while dishing out his deepest funk and sweetest soul. It’s a bit of an unfocused album, but that’s largely due to the repeated instrumental “filler,” usually based on the theme of the title song, that pops up between every two or so songs, undercutting whatever momentum the album is building. That, along with a song or two that are merely average Toussaint, prevents Southern Nights from being a full-fledged masterpiece, but it comes close enough to that level of distinction anyway due to the brilliance of its best songs.

There is, of course, “Southern Nights” which Glen Campbell later took to the top of the charts, but it’s nearly unrecognisable here, given a swirling, trippy arrangement that plays like a heat mirage. It’s rivalled by the exquisite “What Do You Want the Girl to Do?“, later covered by both Bonnie Raitt and Boz Scaggs, neither of which equal the beautiful, sighing resignation of Toussaint’s impeccable vocal performance. Then, there are the songs that weren’t covered, but should have been, like the nearly anthemic “Back in Baby’s Arm“, the rolling, catchy “Basic Lady“, the stately “You Will Not Lose“, or the steady-grooving end-of-the-night “When the Party’s Over“. Then, there are the songs that perhaps only Toussaint could sing, given their complex yet nimble grooves: witness how “Country John” seems like a simple, straight-ahead New Orleans raver but really switches tempo and rhythm over the course of the song, or how the monumental “Last Train” builds from its spare, funky opening to a multi-layered conclusion boasting one of Toussaint’s best horn arrangements and vocal hooks. These disparate sounds may not be tied together by the interludes, as they were intended, but they nevertheless hold together because they’re strong songs all bearing Toussaint’s unmistakable imprint. They’re so good that they nearly knock the “near” of off the near-masterpiece status for Southern Nights, and they’re the reason why the album should be a part of any serious soul collection.

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  • SwedSoul
    Posted at 19:45h, 30 November Reply

    I couldn’t agree more with you. I too have the LP, and will not part with it.

  • Rich
    Posted at 20:52h, 30 November Reply


  • Martin
    Posted at 22:19h, 30 November Reply

    A Must have. Thank u.

  • Grumpy
    Posted at 23:12h, 30 November Reply

    Yet another gem!

  • Beth
    Posted at 12:32h, 01 December Reply

    Excellent contribution. Congrats.

  • James
    Posted at 10:02h, 02 December Reply

    Wonderful! I can’t stop playing this…

  • Alan
    Posted at 10:05h, 02 December Reply

    The master, Allen Toussaint. Just right for the morning…

  • Dan
    Posted at 18:17h, 02 December Reply


  • Joeboy
    Posted at 09:55h, 03 December Reply

    Wonderful album thanks

  • Rene
    Posted at 10:04h, 03 December Reply

    one of these songs that never get old

  • Pam11
    Posted at 10:06h, 03 December Reply

    Right on brother, right on.

  • Bill
    Posted at 10:02h, 04 December Reply

    Amazing stuff. Thanks.

  • Ethel
    Posted at 10:18h, 04 December Reply

    This LP is exceptional.

  • Bob
    Posted at 16:21h, 04 December Reply

    Great album. Lowell George also recorded a great version of ”What Do You Want the Girl to Do?’’ on his ”Thanks I’ll Eat It Here’’ LP.

  • Marita
    Posted at 13:30h, 05 December Reply

    Oh, dear, sweet, beautiful memories. Ripping my soul out.

  • John
    Posted at 19:39h, 06 December Reply

    I always wanted to hear this one. Thanks a mil.

  • thegroove
    Posted at 23:38h, 06 December Reply

    Toussaint is the King! Everything he does will be funky. Thanks for this gem and the write up Nikos.

  • 17M
    Posted at 19:24h, 07 December Reply

    Fantastic post. I’ve never heard him, but clearly I need to check this out. Thanks for the time, energy and music.

  • Michael
    Posted at 18:41h, 14 December Reply

    I love Allen Toussaint’s version as much as the next person, but I have to disagree with your characterization of Glen Campbell’s version of ‘Souther Nights; as ‘soppy’. I think it has a great groove and is one of the best covers of a Toussaint song…. no surprise it went to #1 Pop.

  • Gas
    Posted at 13:30h, 17 January Reply

    Thank you.

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