Meditating On Two Birthdays
"Freedom For The Stallion" (Allen Toussaint)
Allen Toussaint, live, 4/9/1976
Think about it
As I mentioned earlier, Allen Toussaint turns 68 this Saturday, the 14th; and I hope he has a great day and fine new year. After having lost his home when the levee broke, he needs them. I’ve picked this live performance of one of his songs for the weekend, since it ties in with the spirit of Martin Luther King Day, as well.
“Freedom For The Stallion”, was first recorded by Lee Dorsey on a Polydor single Toussaint produced around 1970. In 1972, Three Dog Night covered it on one of their albums (and the B-side of a single), as did the Hues Corporation in 1973; and Gladys Knight included it in a medley with Randy Newman’s “Sail Away” (nice choice) on a 1978 Buddah single. But I have gone to the man himself for our feature: Toussaint backed by Chocolate Milk on the riverboat President in New Orleans, April 9, 1976. Five songs from this concert appeared on the Island LP New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival 1976 (later re-issued on CD by Rhino), as the show was part of Jazzfest.
Although Toussaint during his career has had to overcome, if not actual stage fright, reluctance and uncertainty about being in the spotlight, his performance of this well-wrought, meaningful song aptly demonstrates how superbly he can exceed his own expectations. In fact, in all the times I’ve seen him perform live, he has never turned in less than a charming and engaging performance. No, his voice is not quite top of the line; but it gets the job done. And on this particular number, it is full of sanctified soul and power. Plus, for me, there’s always a kick hearing a song performed by it’s writer; and this is especially true when it’s Toussaint.
There would be no way to pick one song to represent this versatile, prolific composer’s entire body of work. So, I just went with this profound musical meditation, because I think it reveals something about the man. It’s a hymn, really; and the way he talks to God, you’ve got to think that Rev. King would have found it worthy, had he heard it. Anyway, it speaks to me, and I hope to you, too. We're all still trying to find a way. Peace.