Search This Blog

Monday, December 18, 2017

Allen Toussaint: Connected


1) Pure Uncut Love; 2) Do The Do; 3) Computer Lady; 4) Get Out Of My Life, Woman; 5) We're All Connected; 6) Sweet Dreams; 7) Funky Bars; 8) Ahya; 9) If I Leave; 10) Aign Nyee; 11) In Your Love; 12) Oh My; 13) All Of It; 14) Wrong Number; 15) Rolling With The Punches.

Sooner or later, as long as he stayed alive that long, Toussaint must have had that one tasteful and enjoyable comeback — and the Nineties, with all their artistic health benefits for Eighties' sur­vivors, finally saw him return to a stable and perfectly normal recording career. His first record in almost ten years, and his first good record since Southern Nights, more than twenty years before, Connected is surprisingly long: a fifteen-song, hour-long marathon, presenting not only a lot of stuff that he must have accumulated throughout that time, but also a few inventive re-recordings, such as the instrumental version of ʽGet Out Of My Life, Womanʼ. The album may have sold pitifully and remained noticed only among the small fanclub of knowledgeable admirers, but it was clearly recorded as a gesture of strength and vitality.

It is not exactly at the level of inventiveness displayed in Southern Nights, and it shows no traces of the insane energy that populated his instrumental output in the Fifties, but the old man still pulls out most of his old tricks — his knowledge of cool pop hooks, exciting R&B grooves, border genre conventions, charisma, and humor. When he tries to go too modern, he may stumble on occasion: ʽComputer Ladyʼ, for instance, is an attempt to throw some puns around modern computer terminology — an attempt that probably sounded crude and silly already in 1996, but as of 2017, has probably become as incomprehensible to modern generations as all those old blues innuendos from the 1920s ("when she described herself to me, my floppy overheated" and "keep my modem hot, computer lady" are two particularly telling examples). Musically, there are a few boring adult contemporary ballads here (ʽSweet Dreamsʼ) that sound like any generic adult con­temporary ballad from that decade, although Toussaint's calm, friendly, never overstraining voice always makes even his most generic material listenable.

But on the whole, Connected is a fun ride from the opening bars of the funky pop opener ʽPure Uncut Loveʼ to the last bars of the funky instrumental conclusion of ʽRolling With The Punchesʼ. It is hard to name «highlights», but «standout» tracks would probably include ʽWe're All Con­nectedʼ, a joyful singalong about, uh, how we are all connected and shit; ʽAhyaʼ and ʽAign Nyeeʼ, where he lends his piano-playing talents to promote African rhythms and melodies; and ʽIn Your Loveʼ, whose lightly distorted vocals are a clear nostalgic reference to ʽSouthern Nightsʼ, though, as everything second-hand, there is no fear of this song ever overriding the legacy of its genius predecessor. Even these «standouts», though, are barely noticeable in the general fray.

As it always is with Toussaint, the backing band is given directions to keep things tight and pro­fessional, but not get over their heads or anything — instrumental tracks such as ʽFunky Barsʼ or ʽAll Of Itʼ roll steady, with not a single instrument ever getting to show off, oozing self-confi­dence and taste, but not a tremendous lot of adrenaline-heavy excitement. That is exactly what ought to be expected, though, if you know Toussaint at all, and it is more about collective discip­line and composing than about maniacal improvisation: not my favorite schtick of all the schticks there are, but respectable and enjoyable all the same — and, at the very least, cleansing away the horrendous debacle of Mr. Mardi Gras (see, there is a way to make authentic New Orleanian music without having to refer to Fat Tuesday in every song). And there is also a great benefit from having a voice as relatively weak, if charming and friendly, as Toussaint's — it means that it carries the exact same level of charisma in 1996 as it did in 1970, not an ounce less. With all these subtle nuances, Connected inevitably grows upon you, very slowly but very steady, with each ensuing listen, and deserves a grateful thumbs up.


  1. Hope you aren't losing interest George. I know its a lot of work and you've been at it a very long time. Taken as a whole, what you've created on this site is quite a document. I always look forward to your take on these records.

  2. Amen. It is amazing to look at the aggregate numbers on the right with every year counting 365 and the leap years 366. All the way through October, a review every day. He deserves the gaps in Nov/Dec. Hope you are doing well, George. Apart from the heavy time investment required to do this, I can't imagine the amount of contextualization you have to provide for these diverse essays. My head hurts just to "think" about doing this.