January 06, 2007

Let The Fun Begin

I’ve been featuring various artists doing Allen Toussaint’s songs since I started this here blog. As it’s the birth month of Allen Toussaint, I’ve decided to intensify the effort and bring you even more rarely heard examples; and, with the start of Carnival season festivities today, let’s kick it off with a timely tune from Joe Cocker.

"Fun Time" (Allen Toussaint)
Joe Cocker, Asylum 45540, 1978

Although I’ve heard Toussaint do it live a few times in later years, this is the only recorded version of “Fun Time” I am aware of. As well as the single side, it appeared on Joe Cocker’s 1978 Asylum album, Luxury You Can Afford, which was produced by Toussaint with an assist from Barry Beckett. Rather unusually for the producer, the LP tracks were mainly recorded outside New Orleans, the bulk having been cut at Criteria Studios in Miami and Muscle Shoals Sound in Sheffield, Alabama. Toussaint did not employ his usual stable of local talent; and I am guessing from the players listed that only certain backing tracks were done at his own Sea-Saint Studios. Speaking of players, there were many top-flight studio pros involved with the LP project: Steve Gadd, Chuck Rainey, Cornell Dupree, Dr. John, Donny Hathaway, Richard Tee, Bernard Purdie, as well as impressive participants from the Muscle Shoals rhythm section, among others; and Toussaint sitting in on a few tunes.

Playing on “Fun Time” are members of Cocker’s band of the period, I believe: Cliff Goodwin and Mitch Chakour, guitars; Howie Hersh, bass; and John Riley, drums. Added guns are Beckett on keyboards, and a cool horn section with ‘Fathead’ Newman and Hank Crawford in the fold. The other New Orleans connection here is the sax solo by
Gary Brown, who played on numerous Toussaint sessions and was a member of the Soul Machine in the early 1970s.

This song is another little Toussaint pop gem that insinuates itself into your nervous system and quickly instigates shake time. The disco-funk groove could seem dated except for Toussaint’s deft arrangement talents and rhythmic sensibilities, making the various hooks easy to swallow and still very effective. Joe sounds like he’s way into it, too, having himself some righteous fun; and it’s infectious. Mardi Gras can't be far away. . . .


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dan I'm big John Thomassie's brother in law I got a copy of the sweet salvation you sent my wifes cousin, we sure miss him a lot. I would be happy to give you some info about Big John. I started hainging around Jonnie about 1968 untile his untimely death the same night he played a gig 10/26/96.

2:58 PM, February 16, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd love some info about Big John, since I'm writing a book about Tom Waits.

9:47 AM, October 22, 2007  
Blogger Unknown said...

This is Mitch Chakour. I was on A Luxury You Can Afford and also Joe's Pianist and Musical Director for 5 years. I actually arranged "Fun Time" while Allen was out of the studio. All of the horn lines etc... came from my guitar parts.

10:59 AM, January 10, 2008  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

Thanks for writing, Mitch. I would like to learn more about those sessions, as from what you said, it would appear that Toussaint had limited involvement in this project, other than penning a tune and playing some. There are a ton of great players listed for these sessions; and, needless to say, not all of them appeared on every song. Anything else you recall would be appreciated - you can leave a comment here ar email me
at the address on the left sidebar.

4:10 PM, January 10, 2008  

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