drop the needle on it, let it revolve
pop chameleon elvis costello and new orleans' musical powerhouse allen toussaint recently released one hell of a collaborated effort in 'the river in reverse'. the two had worked together before (on elvis' wildly ecclectic 'spike'), so when allen fled to new york right after katrina they started working together immediately, doing shows for the hurricane victims around new york during sept last year. then, the initial idea was for elvis to cut a record of allen's tunes. things changed, they started writing together and by the end of november elvis and the imposters, allen, big easy guitarist anthony 'ab' brown, and the crescent city horns (all whom had lost everything in the flood) began recording in hollywood and new orleans. they finished the sessions in about 2 weeks.
the album is a wonderful showcase of toussaint's immense talent and costello's resolve to do right by his roots. highlighted by the urgency and helplessness fueled by the disaster, the album is a celebration of the city that care forgot and an indictment against the powers that failed that city. even the covered standards of toussaint reflect the desperate conditions that new orleans faces. the powerful 'who's gonna help a brother get further', a song written by allen long ago about all mankind, becomes a tale for all that is wrong with america today ('what happened to the liberty bell? did it really ding-dong? it must have dinged wrong... it didn't ding long')... i guess it's all the way you look at things ...
the tunes written by elvis reflect his feelings about the whole ugly affair, his love for the doomed city and the music it produced. some of the songs they work on together, like 'broken promised land', are true to the sentiment felt all along the gulfcoast. 'ascension day' is a haunting re-write of professor longhair's 'tipitina' (actually similar to allen's 'tipitina and me') with elvis' lyrics and plaintive drawl summing up the aftermath like he actually had been thru it. 'international echo', an ode to growing up in england listening to the crescent city sound, rollicks along to toussaint's barrell-house pianny and funky horn swells.
the album really flows just like a river, nice and smooth, then you run into these eddys that whip you around. a wonderful, yet heartbreaking ride.
the cd we got surprised us with an extra dvd included. a fairly slick little film about the making of the record that shows the pair traveling the battered streets of new orleans and recording in hollywood and the easy. it's really great to see allen getting all this attention.quite a bargain indeed, as we got it on sale at tower for less than a good bottle of wine. this is just a very nice surprise from two of our musical heroes.
what toussaint's official bio at nyno records sez...
Some of the best known hits penned by Toussaint include: Ernie K-Doe’s "Mother-in-Law;" "Fortune Teller," recorded by both Benny Spellman and The Rolling Stones; the Lee Dorsey hit "Working in the Coal Mine", also recorded by Devo and The Judds; and the Grammy-nominated "Southern Nights," recorded by Glen Campbell, which received BMI’s "The Most Performed Song of the Year" in 1977 and won the Country Music Association’s "Song of the Year." The master has produced such artists as Etta James, Albert King, Chocolate Milk, The Meters, LaBelle, Ramsey Lewis, John Mayall and Dr. John, and has been covered by and/or performed with the Pointer Sisters, Bonnie Raitt, The Judds, Robert Palmer, Otis Redding, The O’Jays, Boz Scaggs, Johnny Winter, Ringo Starr, Paul Simon, Chet Atkins, Lenny Kravitz and Elvis Costello, among others.
all that, and a lot more... and it fails to mention working with paul mccartney (which was somewhat of an epiphany back in '75 when paul and linda came to new orleans for mardi gras and record parts of 'venus and mars' at seasaint studios.)
elvis and allen perform 'who's gonna help a brother...'
elvis and allen:
on your way down
brickyard blues ('89 jazzfest)
tipitina (w/ john cleary @ musicare's hurricane benefit)
now go buy 'the river in reverse' or any allen toussaint and elvis costello!