Tag Archives: Allen Toussaint

Goosebumps for Christmas

Eight years ago, during our first Christmas season here at the blog, my friend Rob called this song “goosebump-inducing stuff.”

It still is.

creolexmascd

Reverent yet thrilling, this version is done as a New Orleans-style dirge with some moody Hammond organ and some terrific gospel voices singing backup.

“O Holy Night,” Irma Thomas, from “A Creole Christmas,” 1990. It’s out of print and not available digitally, but Amazon will rip you a copy.

My apologies for not posting it here for the last three years.

As always, it’s for Rob.

“A Creole Christmas” also features the great Allen Toussaint, whom we lost this year. Enjoy his swinging piano take on “White Christmas,” a song you rarely hear with a big band arrangement, or any kind of an upbeat arrangement.

Man, hard to believe this record is 25 years old now.

Enjoy your holidays, everyone.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Christmas music, December 2015, Sounds

A smaller Christmas, Day 7

As my dad and I sat down to lunch today, he handed over his grocery list and something else. It was a clipping from yesterday’s paper.

The cover story on yesterday’s entertainment section in the paper was a guide to the year’s best music gifts. The mainbar was about the 10 best box sets. The sidebar was about the 10 best records that aren’t box sets.

The clipping Dad handed me was from the mainbar.

He’d written this note on the clipping: “Xmas for me REA.” His initials.

“This is what I want for Christmas,” he said.

After we got back to his place, and all his groceries were unloaded, I took that clipping and went directly to the record store. Dad just happens to live just a couple hundred yards from one of our indie record stores.

Thus, this.

Christmas shopping done.

I’m not worried about Dad seeing this. He doesn’t have “one of those machines.”

Given that the Preservation Hall Jazz Band is a New Orleans institution, how about getting today’s song from another New Orleans institution? Enjoy this rollicking piano romp from another American treasure.

creolexmascd

“White Christmas,” Allen Toussaint,” from “A Creole Christmas,” 1990. It’s out of print and not available digitally, but Amazon will rip you a copy.

I once sent all the rips from this tremendous CD to a guy. He said he once had it on cassette, but that he’d played it so much that it had become “worn out and broken.” The guy said his wife would be so thrilled to have it that he was certain they’d be parents nine months hence. I never did hear how that turned out.

Your Christmas music requests in the comments, please.

Please visit our other blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time.

Leave a comment

Filed under Christmas music, December 2012, Sounds

Witness to history

History is being made in Wisconsin this week.

No matter where you are, you’ve likely seen it on the news. Tens of thousands of protesters — public employees, teachers and union workers — have been filling the state Capitol in Madison and its grounds as they fight the Republican governor’s proposal to strip them of collective bargaining rights.

The story has taken one astonishing turn after another.

On Tuesday, it was simply that 13,000 people showed up to protest on a weekday. On Wednesday, the legislative hearing on the bill went until 3 in the morning. And the protesters kept coming. On Thursday, 14 Democratic senators fled the state to block a vote on the bill. On Friday, so many teachers were protesting that some districts canceled classes.

On Saturday, 60,000 people came to the Capitol Square, representing both sides of the debate. An estimated 500 police officers were on hand. Welcome to Madison. The protests were spirited and loud but peaceful all week, with only a handful of arrests for disorderly conduct. It stayed that way Saturday, when the governor’s opponents still far outnumbered the governor’s supporters.

We’ve not seen anything like this in Wisconsin since the Vietnam War protests of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

It’s a story of such magnitude that the Green Bay Packers’ victory in Super Bowl XLV just two weeks ago — also a big story in Wisconsin — has been shoved far into the background, rendered almost an afterthought.

Here’s a look at the protests, set to the music of “14 Senators,” a song written Friday morning by Madison folk singer Ken Lonnquist and performed live on the radio less than an hour later.

And some timeless music perhaps appropriate for the moment.

“We The People,” Allen Toussaint, from Bell single 782, 1969. Available on “What Is Success: The Scepter and Bell Recordings,” a 2007 import CD.

“Eyes On The Prize,” Mavis Staples, from “We’ll Never Turn Back,” 2007.

“World In Motion,” Pops Staples with Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne, from “Peace to the Neigbhorhood,” 1992. It’s out of print but is available digitally.

“(For God’s Sake) Give More Power to the People,” the Chi-Lites, from “(For God’s Sake) Give More Power to the People,” 1971. The LP is out of print but the song is available digitally.

“Ball Of Confusion (That’s What The World Is Today),” the Temptations, from “Greatest Hits II,” 1970. The LP is out of print, but the song is available digitally.

“Fight The Power (Part 1 & 2),” the Isley Brothers, from “The Heat Is On,” 1975. The LP is out of print but the song is available digitally.

8 Comments

Filed under February 2011, Sounds

12 days of Christmas, Day 4

When I picked up the new issue of Mojo magazine last week, it came with a most unexpected little gift. There’s always a free CD, but the surprise was that it was a Christmas CD. First time for that.

Inevitably, “Mojo’s Festive Fifteen” includes a few cuts I have on other records. Chuck Berry’s version of “Run Rudolph Run.” (He didn’t write that, by the way. It just sounds like he did). The Christmas single put out last year by Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings.

What piqued my interest was seeing Irma Thomas’ version of “Oh Holy Night.” That’s another one I’ve had for some time. But then I listened to it. Oh, it’s good enough, a fairly straightforward rendition, but it’s not the same, nowhere as good, as the version on …

“A Creole Christmas,” various artists, 1990.

Can’t believe we’ve had this for almost 20 years. One of the first Christmas records we bought on CD, it’s been one of our favorites ever since.

That it’s gone out of print — and apparently isn’t available digitally — has made it much sought after. I once sent it to a guy who said he’d worn out his cassette copy. He said his wife would be so thrilled to have it that he was certain they’d be parents nine months hence. I never heard back on that.

Recorded in New Orleans and New York, this record is Creole only in that it features almost a dozen performers with deep New Orleans roots. It’s all R&B, soul and zydeco. No matter. It’s outstanding. We share this one every year, for good reason.

“White Christmas,” Allen Toussaint.

As noted here last year, this is a rollicking piano romp, nicely complemented by the horns. All the more special now that I’ve seen Toussaint play live. He’s an American treasure.

“Merry Christmas Baby,” Dr. John.

Three years ago, Mike wrote to request this one, saying “I seem to remember Dr. John’s version of this song being even more languorous than the Charles Brown version.” Dr. John, first known as pianist Mac Rebennack, is a New Orleans legend. This one, as always, is for Mike.

“It Came Upon a Midnight Clear,” Luther Kent.

A hymn not often heard on Christmas records, and certainly not one done as blues. Kent is something of a local institution in New Orleans.

And, of course …

“O Holy Night,” Irma Thomas.

Three years ago, Rob called this “goosebump-inducing stuff.” Yes. Reverent yet thrilling, it’s done as a dirge with some moody Hammond organ and some terrific gospel voices singing backup. This one, as always, is for Rob.

All from “A Creole Christmas,” 1990. It’s out of print.

2 Comments

Filed under Christmas music, December 2010

Three under the tree, Vol. 34

Bootsy Collins’ “Christmas Is 4 Ever,” sampled here in Vol. 33, might not be the best Christmas record of the ’00s, but it’s pretty close when you’re thinking of Christmas records you can enjoy, cut after cut, start to finish. There aren’t many like that.

Perhaps the only ’00s records we’ve enjoyed more from start to finish are “A Wild-Eyed Christmas Night” by .38 Special, from 2001, and “Let It Snow, Baby … Let It Reindeer,” by Relient K, from 2007, sampled in Vol. 32.

But that got me to thinking. What are some of the other Christmas records we’ve enjoyed from start to finish from other decades?

As I look over all the stuff from the ’90s, one record stands out. Every time I post a tune from it, someone raves about it, and rightly so.

I once sent the whole thing to a guy who said his wife would be so thrilled to have it that he was certain they’d be parents nine months hence. Too much information? I think he also said he once had it on cassette, but that it had become “worn out and broken.”

That record is “A Creole Christmas,” released in 1990 on Epic/Associated.

That title is a little misleading. Though tasty, there’s no Creole seasoning. Recorded in New Orleans and New York, this CD gathers almost a dozen performers with deep New Orleans roots. It’s all R&B, soul and zydeco, and that’s just fine. Listen for yourself.

“White Christmas,” Allen Toussaint. All the more special now that I’ve seen Toussaint play live. He’s an American treasure. This is a rollicking piano romp, nicely complemented by the horns.

“Please Come Home for Christmas,” Johnny Adams. This one will give you a good idea of how Adams crossed over from gospel in the ’50s to R&B in the ’60s. Smooth.

“O Holy Night,” Irma Thomas. This is for Rob, who calls this version “goosebump-inducing stuff.” Damn straight. It’s reverent but thrilling, done as a dirge with some terrific Hammond organ.

All from “A Creole Christmas,” 1990. It’s out of print and hard to find.

A couple of other good long-players from the ’90s, though admittedly guilty pleasures: “Star Bright,” by Vanessa Williams, from 1996, and “Have Yourself A Tractors Christmas,” by the Tractors, from 1995.

Tomorrow, a good one from the ’80s.

1 Comment

Filed under December 2009, Sounds

In the presence of greatness

One of the great things about our local music scene is our local casino and the acts it brings in. Of course, the intent is to get people in for the music and keep them for the gaming.

But you can’t argue with that strategy when they bring in a New Orleans music legend for a three-night stand of free shows at an intimate little lounge on the edge of the noisy gaming floor.

Allen Toussaint — the great R&B writer, producer, arranger and most recently performer — played a marvelous set on Tuesday night.

A gentle, delightful man with a sparkle in his eyes (and his tie and his shoes), Toussaint nodded hello as he walked past me and onto the stage. Sitting hard to his right at the edge of the stage, I watched over Toussaint’s shoulder as he gracefully and seemingly effortlessly worked the piano.

Toussaint’s 90-minute show was a delightful trip through his life and career. He sat down and started with a couple of instrumentals. He followed with Chuck Berry’s “School Days,” a song he said he wished he’d written. He then swung into a medley of some of his tunes that were covered by other artists.

Toussaint also played a long, rollicking instrumental piece that purported to explain how he learned to play the piano, going from simple child’s melodies to more polished classical, jazz and R&B passages. He ended the evening with a gently winding monologue that told the story of how he came to write “Southern Nights.” (Yes, that “Southern Nights,” the Glen Campbell hit from 1977.)

I’m late to the party when it comes to Allen Toussaint and all the tunes he’s written and performed.

Most of what I know and have heard has come from Dan over at Home of the Groove, a terrific place to learn about New Orleans music. In fact, Dan wrote about Toussaint just last month.

Much of the rest of what I know and have heard has come from Larry over at Funky 16 Corners. A year ago, Larry laid down several Toussaint-produced tunes in his NOLA Soul Pt. 1 mix.

Gents, thank you. If you’re new to Toussaint as I was, enjoy these tunes.

toussaintx2cd.jpg

“Everything I Do Gonna Be Funky,” Allen Toussaint, from “Allen Toussaint,” 1971.

And these three tunes, all written by Toussaint and performed here by him on Tuesday night, yet among those more memorably covered by others.

acesacescd.jpg

“Lipstick Traces (On a Cigarette),” the Amazing Rhythm Aces, from “The Amazing Rhythm Aces,” 1979. Done first by Benny Spellman in 1962 and also covered by the O’Jays. One of my favorite songs.

mojostonedcd.jpg

“Fortune Teller,” Benny Spellman, 1962, from “Mojo Presents Stoned,” a compilation CD distributed with Mojo magazine last September. It’s the original B side to “Lipstick Traces,” yet probably is far better known today, thanks to covers by the Rolling Stones, the Who, the Hollies, the Tony Jackson Group and most recently by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss on their “Raising Sand” album, released last year.

zevonbadluckstreaklp.jpg

“A Certain Girl,” Warren Zevon, from “Bad Luck Streak in Dancing School,” 1980. Done first by Ernie K-Doe, also in 1962.

6 Comments

Filed under February 2008, Sounds

Three under the tree, Vol. 26

Tonight, one more round of requests as we get ever closer to Christmas.

No. 1: Everyone knows Santa Claus is coming to town. But did you know …

tractorsxmascd.jpg

“Santa Claus is Comin’ (In a Boogie-Woogie Choo-Choo Train),” the Tractors, from “Have Yourself a Tractors Christmas,” 1995. It’s out of print.

This one is another tasty slice of country swing. If you’ve heard the Tractors’ mid-’90s single, “Baby Likes to Rock It,” you’ll know this Christmas tune. It’s the same music, with the lyrics customized for Christmas, all by Steve Ripley and Walt Richmond.

No. 2: Sometimes, finding the right Christmas song can make your entire holiday season. In this case, the search goes on.

belafontemerryxmaslp.jpg

“Mary’s Boy Child,” Harry Belafonte, from “To Wish You a Merry Christmas,” 1962.

Onie is seeking “a slightly faster (but nowhere near as upbeat as the one done by Boney M) version” of this song. This one, I suspect, is “the slower, more melodic version” Onie has found, but has found lacking.

Belafonte originally cut this tune in 1956 and released it as a single (RCA Victor 47-6735). That, I think, is what Onie is looking for. Six years later, Belafonte re-recorded a longer version of this tune for the album I found last week.

No. 3: One of our visitors is longing for more from “A Creole Christmas,” which he once had on cassette. Now, sadly, that cassette is “worn out and broken.”

creolexmascd.jpg

“White Christmas,” Allen Toussaint, from “A Creole Christmas,” 1990. It’s out of print.

This is a rollicking instrumental romp, driven by Toussaint’s fine New Orleans piano and nicely complemented by a horn section.

Enjoy. More to come, but …

Just five days until Christmas …
and just three more days for “Three under the tree”

We’re going to wrap up this series on Sunday. When it ends, I’ll post a list of all the songs and provide links to the posts in which they appeared. The tunes will be available through the end of the year, if you’re just too busy to go get them now.

1 Comment

Filed under Christmas music, December 2007, Sounds