Before the CD reissue craze of the late '80s, Mr. New Orleans (1985) was one of the only places to locate songs from Allen Toussaint's long out-of-print solo effort -- originally titled Allen Toussaint (1970). Name changes aside, the 11 tunes within were cut by the venerable Nola-based musician/composer/arranger/producer after a decade of creating hit records for other artists -- such as "It's Raining" for Irma Thomas, "Mother-In-Law" for Ernie K-Doe and "Pain In My Heart," which has been covered by the Rolling Stones, Otis Redding and the Grateful Dead alike. The selections are split between several sublime vocals and a few equally excellent instrumentals. Toussaint's (piano/vocals) band features the talents of Terry Kellman (guitar), Eddie Hohner (bass), Freddie Staehle (drums), John Boudreaux (drums), Clyde Kerr (trumpet), Earl Turbinton (alto sax), and one Mac Rebennack (organ/guitar) who is probably better known as Dr. John. To complement them vocally, Toussaint called on the dynamic duo of Merry Clayton (backing vocals) and Venetta Fields (backing vocals), whose collective presence enhance the brooding lamentation "From a Whisper to a Scream," the soulfully sanctified "The Chokin' Kind," and the upbeat Muscle Shoals inspired "Sweet Touch of Love." Toussaint recalls a couple of tunes that were ostensibly penned for Lee Dorsey as he crossed "Everything I Do Gonh Be Funky" and "Working in the Coalmine" over into the R&B as well as the pop charts. Rather than emphasize the vocals -- as Dorsey does in his personality-driven readings -- particular attention is given to the multi-layered arrangements. Likewise his edgy attitude on "What Is Success" outshines Bonnie Raitt's comparatively milquetoast interpretation. By the same token, the Toussaint instrumentals "Either," "Louie," and the piquant Nola-flavored "Pickles" fuse funk with the Crescent City's jazzy heritage. The most tasteful of them all is an uplifting redux of "Cast Your Fate to the Wind." Toussaint's wide range of influences can be heard within his clever keyboard runs as he infuses the melody with his own unique phrasing. Parties interested in this package should check out What Is Success: The Scepter & Bell Recordings (2007) as they contain not only the contents of Mr. New Orleans, but the A- & B-sides of the rare Bell Records singles "Get out of My Life Woman" b/w "Gotta Travel On," "I've Got That Feelin' Now" b/w "Hands Christianderson," and "We the People" b/w "Tequila." Caveat emptor as they are mastered right from actual vinyl 45s.
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AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer