Tuesday, June 06, 2006
The best album of 2006 (so far)
The River in Reverse
After Katrina washed Allen Toussaint out of his New Orleans home to New York, he and Elvis Costello performed at a few benefits and decided to cut a cd together. The two combined their bands - Costello's Imposters and Toussaint's horn section and guitarist - and put down 13 tracks last October, fresh from the storm.
Toussaint's the greatest songwriter/producer ever to come out of the South. His resume includes LaBelle's "Lady Marmalade," Dr. John's "Right Place, Wrong Time," the Meters' "Ride Your Pony," Lee Dorsey's "Working in a Coalmine," Chris Kenner's "Land of 1,000 Dances," Jesse Hill's "Ooh Poo Pah Doo," Ernie K-Doe's "Mother-in-Law," the Pointer Sisters' "Yes We Can Can" - to name a few. He's an American treasure.
Costello needs no introduction. Since bursting on the rock scene in 1977 with My Aim Is True, he's been one of pop music's most prolific performers. But not since 1980’s Get Happy has Costello really explored his funky side. Toussaint clearly brought it out of him.
For The River in Reverse, released today, Costello and Toussaint collaborated on five original songs, Costello wrote the title track and the rest of the album covers some of Toussaint’s lesser-known hits. The best of the covers is “Who’s Gonna Help Brother Get Further?” – originally written for Dorsey.
It’s an old thing
It’s a soul thing
But it’s a real
The song oozes with grit, punchy horns, snaky organ and amusing lyrics.
Did it really ding dong?
I must’ve ding wrong
It didn’t ding long
Costello steps out on “The River in Reverse,” the keynote song of the album. An emotional tour de force, it’s his most meaningful performance since 1979's “(What's So Funny About) Peace, Love & Understanding.”
Wake me up with a slap or a kiss
There must be something better than
Because I don’t see how it can get much worse
What can we do to send the river in reverse?
Whether it’s inspired renditions (“On Your Way Down,” “Ascension Day,” “Freedom for the Stallion”) or ferocious collaborations (“Broken Promise Land,” “Six-Fingered Man"), Costello and Toussaint always find the groove. These two musical giants deliver a scorching R&B session that will move you and keep you moving.