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Allen Toussaint - Life, Love and Faith LP
Recent reissue on 180 gram vinyl.
4 Men With Beards Records
When Allen Toussaint restarted his solo career in 1970 with Toussaint (aka From a Whisper to a Scream), he leaned heavily on songs he had written for other artists, as well as a couple of covers. It was a good way to jump-start his career, and with its elastic, elegant arrangements, it set the groundwork for 1972's Life, Love and Faith, his first album for Reprise/Warner. Toussaint seized the opportunity as a way to stretch out his sound, refining it and expanding it so it was grounded in New Orleans R&B but also encompassed hard funk and smooth soul. Though it was a soul album through and through, it also had the feeling of being part of Reprise's considerable singer/songwriter stable -- such artists as Randy Newman, Bonnie Raitt, Little Feat, and Joni Mitchell -- and if anything, Life, Love and Faith feels more of a piece with this group than it does with most music coming out of New Orleans in the early '70s because it also captures an eccentric genius pursuing his idiosyncratic vision. Here, it seems as if Toussaint has found every permutation of his signature sound, which is pretty much the sound of New Orleans R&B. He revives the classic, easy-rolling groove on "Soul Sister"; turns it seriously, deeply funky on "Goin' Down" and "Victims of the Darkness"; gets trippy on "Out of the City (Into Country Life)"; treads nimbly with a Philly soul variation on "She Once Belonged to Me"; and crafts a tremendous, dramatic ballad with "On Your Way Down," one of the finest songs he ever wrote. It's a textured, multi-layered record that may not be the purest dose of Toussaint, but is the one album that truly exhibits how deep and wide his talents ran.