Allen Toussaint – 1970 – Toussaint
Toussaint’s best. Listen to the record that made Lowell George want to make ‘Dixie Chicken’. From the Toussaint horns to the backup singing of Merry Clayton and Venetta Fields, this album is an incredible piece of writing, performing, and singing. Toussaint’s piano playing is really top notch on the instrumental tracks as well.
When these songs first surfaced circa 1970, Toussaint (piano/vocals) had become a decade-long veteran of the New Orleans’ Crescent City soul movement.
A1 From a Whisper to a Scream 3:27
A2 Chokin Kind 3:21
A3 Sweet Touch of Love 3:16
A4 What Is Success 3:32
A5 Working in the Coal Mine 3:12
A6 Everything I Do Gonna Be Funky 3:08
B1 Either 2:51
B2 Louie 3:01
B3 Cast Your Fate to the Wind 3:17
B4 Number Nine 3:30
B5 Pickles 4:27
Under his own name as well as the pseudonym of Naomi Neville, he was a composer, producer, and even a recording session musician. He left a trail of influential R&B titles that would resound back across the pond in the form of cover versions by the likes of the Rolling Stones (“Pain in My Heart“), the Yardbirds (“A Certain Girl“), and the Who (“Fortune Teller“), along with countless others. Toussaint’s uncanny musical malleability resulted in a diverse yet solid second solo outing.
He is supported by Mac Rebennack (organ/guitar) (aka Dr. John), Terry Kellman (guitar), Eddie Hohner (bass), Freddie Staehle (drums), John Boudreaux (drums), Clyde Kerr (trumpet), Earl Turbinton (alto sax), and none other than Merry Clayton (backing vocals) and Venetta Fields — perhaps the most in demand studio voices of the rock & roll era.
The dramatic “From a Whisper to a Scream” perfectly captures the synergy existing between Toussaint’s ultra cool delivery and the understated yet piercing lyrical indictment. Other highlights include the pop-oriented, upbeat, and classy “Sweet Touch of Love“, the author’s interpretation of “Everything I Do Gonh Be Funky” and “Working in the Coalmine“.
The latter pair were likewise formerly charting sides Toussaint had inked for vocalist Lee Dorsey. Looking forward to the ensuing years, Toussaint garnered sizable clout for providing Bonnie Raitt with “What Is Success“. The instrumentals “Either” and “Louie” foreshadow the type of stylish no-nonsense soul that informed his collaborations with the Meters. “Pickles” on the other hand is comparatively jazzier and doused in the revelry of Mardi Gras, complete with a catchy call-and-response.
Finally, Toussaint’s masterful touch and craftsman-like imprint is evident on the uplifting take of Vince Guaraldi’s “Cast Your Fate to the Wind” as he explores alternate textures that lead the melody to some memorable places. While his mid-’70s platters for Warner Brothers may have provided him with additional exposure, this is a sonic touchstone worth repeated examinations.
More albums by Allen Toussaint in our back pages here