Toussaint On The Side
"Goin' Down" (Allen Toussaint)
Claudia Lennear. from Phew,Warner Bros, 1973
Claudia Lennear’s 1973 album, Phew, produced by Ian Samwell, had an interesting collection of songs and players, using a different set of musicians on each side. Side one was a rootsy affair with a band including Ry Cooder on guitar and several members of the Dixie Flyers rhythm section (Jim Dickinson and Tommy McClure). But, it was side two where the HOTG influences came in, as all the songs were Allen Toussaint compositions. In addition, Toussaint was on the sessions playing piano, singing some backup (as heard on this tune), doing the hot horn arrangements, and otherwise providing “musical supervision”, as noted in the credits.
The only other New Orleans name making the date was Harold Battiste, Jr. on alto sax; but the rest of the second side tracking team were some of the best, like Chuck Rainey on bass, Jim Keltner on drums, Spooner Oldham on electric piano, to name but a few. Together with Toussaint, they laid down a spicy, funk backing for Lennear’s vocals on our featured tune. She had been a background singer on projects by Cooder, Leon Russell, Joe Cocker, and Al Kooper, among others, and had a strong voice that could be gritty and convincing; but, it was not all that distinctive. Still, she is heard to good effect on “Goin’ Down”, which Toussiant first recorded in 1972 on his Life, Love and Faith album. It was also covered memorably in 1975 by the Pointer Sisters.
At the time of this record, Toussaint was also a Warner Bros. artist, as were the Meters, who he produced. His talents were appreciated by other label-mates such as Bonnie Raitt and Little Feat, who were covering his tunes; and he was on the verge of a string of production work for many national acts. Yet, although Lennear’s backing musicians, arrangements, and material were top rate, Phew was not successful; and she did not record another album, as far as I know.