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Play Something Sweet: Ace Taps R&B and Rock Legends for “The Allen Toussaint Songbook”

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What is success? For Allen Toussaint, it’s been a career that’s lasted for over fifty years in which he’s created some of the most memorable music ever committed to tape: “Mother-in-Law.” “Whipped Cream.” Lady Marmalade.” “Working in the Coal Mine.” “Southern Nights.” “Yes We Can Can.” The latter song, a hit for the Pointer Sisters, took on added significance when it became associated with Barack Obama’s 2008 U.S. Presidential campaign. As writer, producer, vocalist and arranger, Allen Toussaint’s stamp has been made on not just the music of his hometown New Orleans, not just on the music of America, but on the entirety of popular music. U.K. label Ace has just celebrated this remarkable career with Rolling with the Punches: The Allen Toussaint Songbook. The 24-track anthology conclusively proves that yes he could.

Rolling with the Punches spans the period between 1961 and 1992, a little over thirty productive years in a career that spans to this very day. Naturally, some of the very finest artists in Louisiana music history are represented here, as most were affiliated with Toussaint at one time or another. Though “Mother-in-Law” is absent, Ernie K-Doe opens the set with his 1971 “Here Comes the Girls,” its insistent riff having thrived thanks to a 2008 ad campaign from retailer Boots and a Sugababes sample later the same year. Lee Dorsey, the original “Working in the Coal Mine” man, makes appearances with “Holy Cow” and the fiendishly memorable “Occapella,” on which Toussaint makes one of his many prominent vocal appearances on this compilation. (“Coal Mine” is here, too, in The Judds’ 1985 countrified version.) Toussaint’s magic touch was felt by the Neville Brothers, naturally, and Aaron Neville’s rare 1961 single “Let’s Live” has been included here. Its songwriting credit was ascribe to one of Toussaint’s most famous pen names, that of Naomi Neville. (No relation to the Brothers!) The Meters played on many of Toussaint’s most memorable productions, and he groomed them for fame on their own, too, with songs like 1970’s “Ride Your Pony.” Benny Spellman, the famous answer voice on Ernie K-Doe’s “Mother-in-Law,” got his own instant classic from writer/arranger Toussaint with “Fortune Teller” (also the title track of a recent, Toussaint-dominated singles collection from RPM). And no Toussaint collection would be complete without a track from Irma Thomas, the Soul Queen of New Orleans. She’s heard with “Sweet Touch of Love,” from her 1992 album True Believer.

There’s much more after the jump, including the full track listing with discography, and order link!

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Written by Joe Marchese

December 6, 2012 at 11:39