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Monday, December 4, 2017

Allen Toussaint: Mr. Mardi Gras


1) Mr. Mardi Gras; 2) Fat Tuesday; 3) I Know You Mardi Gras; 4) Come To The Mardi Gras; 5) I Love A Carnival Ball; 6) The Mighty Mighty Chief; 7) Long Live The King; 8) Lead Me To The Dance Floor.

If just a few more people knew about the existence of the album, chances are it would be in a very good position to make it to many of those «worst ever» record lists that people sometimes rifle through out of boredom. Problem is, while it definitely does exist (unless my own ears deceive me or something), it is so rare that it is not even found in all of Toussaint's discographies. All I know is that it was released on «Cayenne Records», presumably Toussaint's own label that never produced any other piece of product; never made it to CD format; but is at least available as a digital download today, for completist idiots like myself.

No idea about how it came to life, who played on it, how the hell did Allen, after a decade of staying away from original material, suddenly decide to make a «concept album» about the cele­bration of Fat Tuesday, and, most importantly, why did he decide that the album had to be done the trendy modern way. For all I know, this was a temporary ridiculous aberration of the mind: Mr. Mardi Gras does not just sound horrible, it also sounds absolutely nothing like any of the records he made in the Seventies (even Motion is miles ahead), and absolutely nothing like any of the records he would make during his Nineties comeback.

Simply put, this is a bunch of Mardi Gras-themed (as if this wasn't already obvious just by looking at the song titles) pop tunes whose main point is to sound as proverbially Eighties as possible. Electronic drums, cheap Casios, and synthesized poppin' bass are all over the place, and when combined with the forced simple-stupid cheerful vibe, the end result is smatteringly vulgar and crass. It's like, you know, every single cliché about New Orleanian carnival music crammed together and then smeared with electronics that make certain arcade machines from the same time sound positively luxurious in comparison. Every now and then, some of Allen's own nice piano playing breaks through, accidentally, but for the most part, the horns are the only non-synthetic part of the scenery.

Perhaps in some alternate twisted universe, where robots hold their own Mardi Gras parties, having adapted them through machine learning, this record might have a higher chance of being recognized — and, well, as a pure, unadulterated novelty it may be worth hearing; at the very least, I should recognize that I have never ever heard anything like it. But once the novelty has worn off, it simply remains as a scarecrow, reminding us all that Fifties' survivors generally sucked even harder at adapting to Eighties' technology than Sixties' veterans — fortunately, few of them even tried. Thumbs down without further consideration.

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