(Zoho, 2013)

Swingadelic is a biggish band -- 14 players plus a couple of singers -- whose musicians are schooled in nearly every genre of music, from klezmer to jazz, blues to country, rock and Latin music. This is good because with this, their second album, they pay tribute to the music of Allen Toussant, who treats genres like barbecued ribs when he writes -- something to be devoured and its bones thrown away.

Toussant, known as the king of New Orleans music, might not be a name that brings a click of recognition, but his music does. Until the hurricane destroyed just about everything he owned, he refused to tour, choosing instead to stay home and write, record and produce records for everyone in New Orleans, from Dr. John to Fats Domino to Lee Dorsey. So even people who don't know his name know his tunes.

With his 75th birthday coming up, Swingadelic decided they wanted to salute the legend by recording an album of his hits. It was a wise choice. Toussantville is a fine album, one that makes you laugh at the humor in Toussant's tunes while you smile at the familiarity of hearing songs you'd long forgotten and, if you're listening alone, get up and dance by yourself. This is fine stuff, very well arranged and played.

The album opens with Lee Dorsey's big hit, "Night People," done up in a swinging arrangement that brings out the jazz in the rhythm and blues tune. John Bauers sings it, and his voice suits the deep blues of the tune perfectly. With "Southern Nights," the band rescues the song from the country-pop gloss that Glen Campbell put on it when he took it to No. 1 in 1977, going back to the r&b song that Toussant had in mind.

As good as the vocals are, it's the instrumentals that make the album. "Java," which Dixieland trumpeter Al Hirt had a big hit with in 1964, chugs and prances like the racehorse it was named for and is guaranteed to make you break a smile. Several songs that originally were performed by singers get instrumental treatments here, such as "Get Out of My Life Woman" and "Everything I Do Got to Be Funky."

As you can see, Allen Toussant's writing was all over the genre map. As a producer, he had to be versatile enough to craft songs that suited the artists he was recording at the time, and he was the most successful producer in New Orleans for more than 50 years -- as well as being a successful recording artist himself -- so he had to know what he was doing. This CD shows that he did, and also shows that Swingadelic knows its way around a fine song, too.

music review by
Michael Scott Cain

18 May 2013

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