Song Of The Day 1/30/2017: Allen Toussaint – “Last Train”


You Pick The Artist - The Final Picking -- Andras Jones gave me Allen Toussaint, the greatest songwriter in New Orleans R&B history, whose work I first got to know by the piles of great records other people recorded: "Working in the Coal Mine," "Java,""Southern Nights," "Yes We Can Can." And also the stuff he produced: "Right Place, Wrong Time" by Dr. John, "Lady Marmalade" by Labelle. About ten years ago I got his Complete Warner Recordings, which might explain why his own records didn't set fire to the world as the songs he wrote. He was a serviceable singer who didn't have a ton of vibrato or melisma under his command, but that just makes his records more approachable. And nobody ever complains about his piano playing, as they shouldn't.

It was a real tight choice for me between his version of "Southern Nights" --  dramatically different from Glen Campbell's hit version -- and "Last Train," which opens Toussaint's Southern Nights album. If I wasn't such a literalist I'd just put that whole album up here, to be honest. But "Last Train" has followed me around for most of the last decade. It could be those distinctly simple piano chords in the introduction (well, they're actually just dyads) or the fact that the refrain contains the hyphenate "choo-choo." This is the first song I think of whenever I think of Toussaint, though. Thanks Andras!

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