January 17, 2006

Toussaint Gets Winterized

"Blinded By Love" (Allen Toussaint)
Johnny Winter, from Saints & Sinners, Columbia, 1974

The smurf has left the building

My wife and I were driving to New Orleans this past weekend in her car; and, when the radio got too bad to listen to – pretty quickly – she rummaged around and popped in a tape (still got a cassette player in that ride) that brought immediate bliss. There was Betty Harris singing “Ride Your Pony”, then Aaron Neville doing “Let’s Live” ("man, what a cool mix tape my girl made", I thought), and then there’s. . .me. . . back-announcing the tunes. I realized she had recorded one of my Allen Toussaint birthday radio specials on WEVL FM in Memphis, where I would annually feature only songs he had written. I didn't know she'd done it but am glad she did and played it, because hearing it reminded me of several cover versions of his songs I had forgotten about. “Blinded By Love” is one of ‘em.

One of my fellow dj’s at WEVL, Lonnie, gave me the heads up on this song several years back. I’ve never been that much of a
Johnny Winter fan; but he does have a place here at HOTG for being a Gulf Coast born and bred artist (along with his brother, Edgar, who plays keyboards on this track) from Beaumont, Texas, and for taking on this Toussaint tune, certainly the most adventurous selection on his 1974 Saints & Sinners album. Despite the schlock 1970’s over-processed production quality courtesy of Rick Derringer, (who also plays rhythm guitar here) there is a good performance of the song lurking behind several layers of sonic shellac. As with many of Toussaint’s compositions, “Blinded By Love” has plenty of intricate counterpoint and poly-rhythm going on among the instruments and the vocal. For a blues and R&B influenced rock act to carry this off so well is al tribute to all concerned.

As far as I know, this song has never been covered by another artist or been recorded by the writer himself. Please let me know if there is another version out there. Of all the live Toussaint performances I’ve seen, I don’t recall him doing this one either – and he often will play some of his various originals recorded by others. “Blinded By Love” certainly works in the soul/rock treatment dished up by Winter and Derringer; but I’ve got to wonder how Toussaint envisioned it and what it would sound like in his hands with hometown players. I think the reason he went so far as an in-demand songwriter and producer has to do with the quality of his compositions, using elements of his hometown roots uniquely mixed in with other diverse influences he picked up along the way to make music that adapted well to pop, soul, blues, rock, and even reggae performers. Allen Toussaint deserves that
Offbeat lifetime achievement award. As I have been doing from the start, I will feature more diverse covers of his tunes and his various production projects on down the line.

***Thanks to DJ Lou Kash for hipping me (us) in the comments to this post about Sam & Dave's cover of "Blinded By Love" that appeared on their Back At 'Cha LP in the mid-1970's (and on a single) with production by Steve Cropper. Kash even has a short-term link to the audio. That's what I'm talkin' about. Those who found the Winter version either too schlocky or rocky or just plain dismal should check the S&D out; although, to me, it still needs that Toussaint touch. As I note in the comments, a quick check for information on this record showed me that Toussaint's "Shoo Rah" (at least, I assume it's his) is also on it, as well as the song, "Give It What You Can", written by Cropper and several other Memphis musicians, which was later covered by the Meters on their swan song LP, New Directions. Thanks to all for the feedback.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dan, nice to read your story and info about mr winter!and always nice to hear recorded radio, even if it is u, right?! M usa

4:19 PM, January 17, 2006  
Blogger Lou Kash said...

After only a few bars I knew I have another version of this song somewhere...
It has been recorded by Sam & Dave in the mid seventies (probably 1974) and appeared on an album called "Back At 'Cha".
I have only a 7" though.

11:28 AM, January 18, 2006  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

Wow, Lou. I missed that one. Thanks! I'll start looking for it. Sounds like a promising cover.

4:54 PM, January 18, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Dan,
That wife of yours has been having those ears her whole life and they have always been that awesome. She is a wonder!


8:03 PM, January 18, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Dan,
That wife of yours has been having those ears her whole life and they have always been that awesome. She is a wonder!


8:04 PM, January 18, 2006  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

Couldn't agree with you more, Boco.
She tells me you've been known to do some righteous covers of Toussaint tunes, too, dawlin'.

10:51 PM, January 18, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i just cant get past the production here to hear the actual song. those backup singers make my skin crawl!

7:08 AM, January 19, 2006  
Blogger Lou Kash said...

I have recorded the Sam & Dave 7" and uploaded the song to my server:
Sam & Dave - Blinded By Love (1974)
It will be available for about a week, so get it while you can... :)

In fact, this is one of my favorite Sam & Dave songs ever since I have found this record about 12 years ago. The whole LP from 1974 has been produced by Steve Cropper. And from what I have read about Sam & Dave 1970s recordings, it's well possible that they didn't even meet in the studio during the recording sessions, recording their parts separately...

8:34 AM, January 19, 2006  
Blogger Lou Kash said...

Oops, the first recording had a few dropouts on the left channel, as I have noticed. Blame my good old 24-channel Tascam mixing console which has been gathering quite a lot of dust lately...

I have uploaded a new recording in the meantime. If you have downloaded the song right before this post, please re-download.

9:14 AM, January 19, 2006  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

Thanks, Lou! I certainly prefer the Steve Cropper Sam & Dave production. As was stated above, there are things about the Winter take that can be hard to listen through to get a sense of the song itself. I'd still like to hear a Toussaint version. I looked up the song titles for 'Back At 'Cha' and note there appears to be another Toussiant song on there, 'Shoo Rah'. The album also has 'Give It What You Can', written by Cropper and other Memphians, that was covered by the Meters on their final album, 'New Directions'. Man, you can learn a lot from blogs. . .

9:51 AM, January 19, 2006  
Blogger Lou Kash said...

A propos Johnny Winter: About in 1984 I went to a gig that he was playing in Zürich, along with the Jack Bruce Group. At that time I have begun to play guitar in various local bands and those guys were huge fans, so I thought, naive as I was with 17, that this is something I must have seen (and heard).
I guess I have never seen such a boring gig before and after that.
Wait, I did: same year, same city, other venue, other guitar "hero". His name was, if I remember it correctly, Erich Klappton or something... ;) YAWN!

9:17 AM, January 20, 2006  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

Although J. Winter is not the ususal musical direction here, the rare song was my reason for posting. Thanks for giving us an altenative version, LK! Hey, I've had more comment action on this one than on most. Go figure. And, rest assured, as much as I esteem Mr. Toussaint, you'll never hear Glen Campbell's version of "Southern Nights" on HOTG.

11:04 AM, January 20, 2006  
Blogger Lou Kash said...

Actually this might be one of the best songs Winter has ever recorded (from my personal point of view). I for one actually like it. But of course I prefer S&D better.

Re: comments
I guess many people post comments only if they have something to contribute to the topic. At least that's how I do it. I don't think it's necessary to leave a message everytime you visit a blog... :) (That's what counters are for)

But while we're at it: Dan, thanks for posting so many interesting stuff about New Orleans music in general and Allen Toussaint in special. Toussaint is not very known in Europe, but I was quite hooked ever since I have heard Country John on a radio show 20 years ago. He's not the best singer of them all, but his voice sounds very unique, which I generally consider an important quality point. And of course most of his compositions are instantly recognizable as well, even if recorded by other artists.

My favorite Toussaint song is probably Goin' Down Slowly by the Pointer Sisters (preferably the full album version) with all those nice "wacka-wacka" guitars by Melvin Ragin (aka Wah Wah Watson) and the superfunky drumming by Gaylord Birch (who also was Larry Graham's drummer). Holy Moly! It gives me goosepimples everytime I listen to it. And I listen to it a lot...

10:35 AM, January 23, 2006  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

Yeah, Lou, this is about the only Winter song I've ever really paid attention to. The rest of this album didn't do all that much for me, although, his cover of Van Morrison's "Feedback On Highway 101" is OK with its soul/funk feel.

On comments: I don't really expect them - but am glad to get them. It just struck me as odd that this post generated so many.

Finally, that Pointer Sister's LP cut clocks in at about 8 minutes, as I recall, and is really hot. That's too much bandwidth for me to post (unless I suck it in and change my mind); but I encourage anybody who is into Toussaint to check out their version of "Goin' Down Slowly". Thanks for the reminder.

2:14 PM, January 23, 2006  
Blogger Lou Kash said...

Re: Pointer Sisters "Goin' Down Slowly"

Dan, I already have an MP3 recorded from my vinyl LP, encoded at 192 kbps. If you want to write a post about it, let me know before you post it and I'll upload the song to one of my web spaces, then I'll let you know the URL.

7:44 AM, January 24, 2006  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

Lou, I posted Claudia Linnear's (much shorter) version of "Goin' Down" here back in early June, 2005. One reason why I chose it is that Toussaint had something to do with the sessions. But, if you are willing to host some bandwidth, I will see what I can come up with on the PS version and let you know. Would you like to contribute to the post? I mean, you seem to know more about the LP than I do (my copy is in storage, actually - although I do have a CD burn of that song). Just send me an e-mail.
By the way, Toussaint's version of "Goin' Down" is also one of the outstanding tracks on 'Life, Love and Faith'. Thanks for the offer and for helping make this comment thread so long lasting! We're now discussing an entirely different song. . . .

11:39 AM, January 24, 2006  

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