Rolling With The Punches-The Allen Toussaint Songbook
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Who is better qualified than Allen Toussaint to feature in Ace s Songwriter Series? Toussaint songs span seven decades of popular music. His prolific catalogue boasts an incredible number of hits and Pop/R&B standards, and he might well be the only composer whose songs have topped the Pop, R&B and country charts at various times. Toussaint songs have advertised everything from Coca Cola and chocolate to Boots The Chemist. They have been used as TV themes and featured in film soundtracks. He s scored hits in every decade from the 1950s onwards and is still doing so in the 21st century. In addition he either discovered or nurtured the talents of a raft of pivotal R&B acts, among them Aaron Neville, Benny Spellman, Irma Thomas and Lee Dorsey, all of whom recorded some of Toussaint's best songs. The two dozen songs on Rolling With The Punches - a CD which carries the personal approval and endorsement of Mr Toussaint himself focus on a 20-year period that covers the 1960s and 1970s. The diversity of performers shows just how adaptable to all sorts of genres Toussaint s work is and offers an affectionate salute to his lyrical and melodic supremacy that has long been overdue. It would be impossible to fit all of his most famous songs on one CD but our overview embraces several of his biggest as well as showcasing some beautiful songs that are no less worthy of great public acclaim.
Top Customer Reviews
It is possible to nitpick endlessly with the track selection for a CD like this, especially since Mr. Toussaint has penned enough classic tunes to fill several CDs but overall Ace do a good job with some excellent surprising choices like Bill Medley's version of "Freedom For The Stallion" and more amazingly The Judds version of Lee Dorsey's "Working In A Coalmine" which is almost funky (!) despite their country credentials and it emanating from the mid-80's when being 'funky' wasn't on top of anyone's agenda! Most of the tracks are from the '69 to '79 time period and mesh pretty well together which makes the few early to mid-'60's tracks sound a little out of place fine songs though they are (eg. Lee Dorsey's "Holy Cow"; Aaron Neville's "Let's Live"). It'd probably been a better move to stick to the '69-'79 decade especially since this time period is relatively unanthologised in regard to the Toussaint canon as opposed to the '60s where there are numerous Toussaint compilations, both multi- and single-artist.
That said there are numerous top-notch performances from admitted Toussaint admirers like Boz Scaggs, Bonnie Raitt, Lowell George (pretty much the cream of the 70's SoCal singers and players....) and even our own Robert Palmer, with help from Little Feat, and Frankie Miller (who even hired Toussaint to produce his excellent "High Life" album).Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Allen Toussaint has been the leading light of New Orleans R&B/soul songwriting since the turn of the 1960s. But it's not just one major chart of the '60s and '70s that could contain him: he topped all four of the U.S. singles charts in that era, particularly due to the phenomenal crossover success of Glen Campbell's cover of his "Southern Nights" that went to #1 pop, country and adult contemporary. That record is here, and while not really a "collectible," I'm guessing that not many connoisseurs of Southern soul have extensive Glen Campbell collections. No less an expert than Allen Toussaint himself calls Campbell's hit rendition "wonderful" and "much more entertaining" than his own. This latter nugget of information is from compiler Tony Rounce's 17 pages of comprehensive liner notes contained in the colorful [or "colourful" because it's British] 20-page photo-filled booklet.
The 1960s are very well represented by the early (1961) Aaron Neville single "Let's Live" (it's amazing how great he still sounds 52 years later on his "My True Story" CD and DVD from earlier this year, covering R&B hits from this same time period and earlier); Benny Spellman's "Fortune Teller" from 1962 (which belongs in the B-side Hall of Fame!); Lee Dorsey's "Holy Cow" from 1966 [#10 soul/#23 U.S. pop and an unexpected #6 chart placement in the U.K.]; Solomon Burke's superior (although non-charting) cover of Lee Dorsey's "Get Out of My Life Woman" from 1968; and a terrific 1969 trumpet-led, reverbed guitar and electric piano (by Toussaint) soul-jazz instrumental titled "Tampin'." What a treat to hear this for the first time a mere 44 years later!
15 of the 24 tracks are from the 1970s when a greater diversity of artists (not just R&B/soul) were discovering Allen Toussaint's remarkable songs. Besides the aforementioned "Freedom for the Stallion" and "Southern Nights," there's Toussaint's second biggest hit of the decade, the bouncy and optimistically anthemic "Yes We Can Can" (1973)[#11 pop/#12 soul] that put the Pointer Sisters (sounding a lot like the Staple Singers here) on the map. On the deep soul side are a couple of stellar obscurities (a 1974 B-side and a 1976 LP track, respectively) that deserve to be savored: Z.Z. Hill's "Whatever's Thrilling You (Is Killing Me)" and Millie Jackson's "I'll Be Rolling (With the Punches)," which inspired this collection's title. The leadoff track, the propulsive and hook-laden "Here Come the Girls," reunited Toussaint with Ernie K-Doe -- of course, ten years earlier they got to #1 both R&B (5 weeks) and pop with the classic novelty "Mother-in-Law." 1974 brought Bonnie Raitt's really fine cover of Toussaint's "What Is Success" (catch the award-worthy Jerry Ragovoy production and arrangement on this), as well as Robert Palmer's funkily soulful U.S. début single "Sneakin' Sally Thru' the Alley" (which belongs in the song title Hall of Fame!). Closing out the decade in magnificent style is Lowell George channeling his inner Al Green on "What Do You Want the Girl to Do?" Speaking of "Girl" and just previously of Ernie K-Doe, Warren Zevon landed a #57 hit the following year with the cover heard here of K-Doe's impossibly catchy 1961 B-side "A Certain Girl" (yet another "Hall of Fame" Toussaint B-side!). Jackson Browne, Glenn Frey and Don Henley provided the backing vocals.
Skipping to 1992, a real sweet touch is the Soul Queen of New Orleans Irma Thomas's revival of the 1970 Toussaint song "Sweet Touch of Love." She began recording Toussaint songs three decades earlier, and in all that time it's clear that neither had lost their touch.