If Allen Toussaint had recorded the hit version of every song that he’s written over the past 50 years, he would rank among the most successful artists of all time. Just a list of his hit compositions would fill several pages, and a list of those who have put voice to his words and music would fill the rest of an issue. Working In The Coal Mine, Southern Nights, What Do You Want The Girl To Do, Lipstick Traces, Whipped Cream, and Ruler Of My Heart and many others are permananetly enshrined in the Popular Music Hall Of Fame, as are the artists who recorded these and hundreds of other Toussaint compositions, from Glen Campbell and Herb Alpert at one end of the scale to Lee Dorsey and Irma Thomas at the other.
Toussaint’s prolific songwriting has never been matched by his own output as a recording artist. He has released less than 10 albums under his own name since 1957 - and only around 25 singles across the same time frame. The album that forms the core of this new Kent collection was released, almost 14 years after he had first set foot in a recording studio, in 1970.
The warm, rich harmonies of Toussaint, and his friend Willie Harper, had been a feature of so many of his productions that many who bought the LP were probably expecting an all-vocal set. Instead it offered a 50/50 split between mostly new Toussaint songs and instrumentals, with a couple of revivals (one vocal, one instrumental) thrown in. Among the songs were three of his most celebrated: the original versions of From A Whisper To A Scream, Sweet Touch Of Love and, perhaps most famously, What Is Success. Allen also remade two of his songs that had shaped Lee Dorsey’s profile in the latter 1960s, Working In The Coal Mine and Everything I Do Gonh Be Funky. A third Toussaint/Dorsey collaboration, Get Out Of My Life, Woman, is one of six bonus tracks, originally released as three singles on Bell Records. Original instrumentals like Louie and Pickles display all his trademark pianist flourishes and runs.
“Toussaint” got lost in the shuffle when Tiffany Records went belly up. Before Scepter had a chance to get behind its reissue, Toussaint had signed to Reprise. 35+ years later, everyone should welcome this chance to reappraise these recordings. R&Bs and rock‘n’roll would never have been the same without Allen Toussaint. You only have to listen to this CD to understand why.
By Tony Rounce