VOICES Notes and news on New Releases
28 OCT 13 ANNE FARNSWORTH
Composer, arranger and pianist Allen Toussaint is a living legend in New Orleans, a city jam-packed with famous music names like Neville, Marsalis and Dr. John. The Rounder release Songbook offers a live recording of 25 of Toussaint's compositions played and sung solo by him. This special offering includes a 90-minute DVD along with backstage and studio interviews. It's a must-have for Toussaint fans as well as all lovers of classic American music.
The two performances used on the CD were recorded at famed NY music spot, Joe's Pub. Toussaint jokingly calls Hurricane Katrina his booking agent, crediting the storm for rebooting his career as a performer after flooding him out of home and studio. In order to recover -- financially, musically, spiritually -- Toussaint relocated to New York City and began to perform solo concerts, using Joe's Pub as his home base.
The 25 songs in this collection are enlivened with Toussaint's introductions, asides and personal recollections of the artists who recorded his songs. One of his most well known compositions, "Southern Nights," was based on childhood memories of visiting his grandparents, who lived in the Louisiana countryside. He recorded it himself in 1975 and two years later it was covered by Glen Campbell on his album of the same name, becoming a huge crossover hit on several Billboard charts.
"Lipstick Traces" was first recorded in 1962 by New Orleans R&B singer, Benny Spellman, and later covered by the O'Jays and the Rolling Stones. The piano intro on the Spellman version sounds so close to Toussaint's intro here I suspect he was the pianist on that cut as well. Toussaint wrote that song and many others under the pseudonym Naomi Neville, his mother's maiden name, to skirt a publishing contract he had at the time.
The list of famous artists that have recorded Toussaint's songs is jaw dropping, encompassing many genres and age groups. In recent times, he was "rediscovered" by Elvis Costello, giving his protean and long-lived career another bounce in the process. The 2006 album they made together, The River In Reverse, was partially recorded in New Orleans, the first high profile studio session to take place there after Katrina.