Southern Nights is a 1975 R&B concept album by Allen Toussaint. Seminal to the development of New Orleans R&B, Toussaint incorporated into the album elements of funk and soul music, while, according to AllMusic, suggesting neo-psychedelia. Two singles were released in support of the album, “Country John” backed with “When the Party’s Over” and “Southern Nights”—Toussaint’s signature song—backed with “Out of the City”. Although neither single charted for Toussaint, “Southern Nights” as later covered by Glen Campbell in 1977 reached number one in Billboard’s country, pop and adult contemporary charts. Released in May 1975 by Reprise Records, the album has been subsequently reissued multiple times on both LP and CD.
Among the better known songs of the album, “Southern Nights” was Toussaint’s tribute to evenings spent with his Creole family on a porch in the song-writer’s native Louisiana. The song that would become Toussaint’s signature song was brought to the attention of Glen Campbell by Campbell-collaborator Jimmy Webb. Campbell released it on an album he titled Southern Nights in February 1977, whereupon it spent four weeks at the top of the country, pop and adult contemporary charts. Toussaint’s version of the song was very different from the “cheerful catchiness and…bright, colorful feel” of Campbell’s; AllMusic comments in its album review on the “swirling, trippy arrangement that plays like a heat mirage” of Toussaint’s version, while The Times-Picayune remarked in 2009 on its “strange psychedelic-swamp-water sound.”
In 1994, Toussaint came out of a lengthy hiatus as a performer to record the song in duet with Chet Atkins for the compilation album Rhythm, Country and Blues. Toussaint frequently performed the song in concert. (by wikipedia)
Allen Toussaint produced a kind of masterpiece with his first Reprise album, Life, Love and Faith, finding previously unimagined variations on his signature New Orleans R&B sound. For its 1975 sequel, Southern Nights, he went even further out, working with producer Marshall Sehorn to create a hazy vague concept album that flirted with neo-psychedelia while dishing out his deepest funk and sweetest soul. It’s a bit of an unfocused album, but that’s largely due to the repeated instrumental “filler,” usually based on the theme of the title song, that pops up between every two or so songs, undercutting whatever momentum the album is building.
That, along with a song or two that are merely average Toussaint, prevents Southern Nights from being a full-fledged masterpiece, but it comes close enough to that level of distinction anyway due to the brilliance of its best songs. There is, of course, “Southern Nights,” which Glen Campbell later took to the top of the charts, but it’s nearly unrecognizable here, given a swirling, trippy arrangement that plays like a heat mirage. It’s rivalled by the exquisite “What Do You Want the Girl to Do?,” later covered by both Bonnie Raitt and Boz Scaggs, neither of which equal the beautiful, sighing resignation of Toussaint’s impeccable vocal performance. Then, there are the songs that weren’t covered, but should have been, like the nearly anthemic “Back in Baby’s Arm,” the rolling, catchy “Basic Lady,” the stately “You Will Not Lose,” or the steady-grooving end-of-the-night “When the Party’s Over.”
Then, there are the songs that perhaps only Toussaint could sing, given their complex yet nimble grooves: witness how “Country John” seems like a simple, straight-ahead New Orleans raver but really switches tempo and rhythm over the course of the song, or how the monumental “Last Train” builds from its spare, funky opening to a multi-layered conclusion boasting one of Toussaint’s best horn arrangements and vocal hooks. These disparate sounds may not be tied together by the interludes, as they were intended, but they nevertheless hold together because they’re strong songs all bearing Toussaint’s unmistakable imprint. They’re so good that they nearly knock the “near” of off the near-masterpiece status for Southern Nights, and they’re the reason why the album should be a part of any serious soul collection. (by Stephen Thomas Erlewine)
Carl Blouin (saxophone)
Gary Brown (saxophone)
Lester Caliste (trombone)
Steve Howard (trumpet)
Claude Kerr, Jr. (trumpet, flugelhorn)
Ziggy Modeliste (drums)
Charles Victor Moore (guitar)
Jim Moore (flute, saxophone)
Arthur “Red” Neville (organ)
Leo Nocentelli (guitar)
George Porter, Jr. (bass)
Lon Price (flute, saxophone)
Alfred “Uganda” Roberts (percussion)
Teddy Royal (guitar)
Allen Toussaint (guitar, harmonica, keyboards, vocals)
Clyde Williams (drums)
Joan Harmon – Sharon Nabonne – Deborah Paul
01. Last Train 3.02
02. Worldwide 2.43
03. Back In Baby’s Arms 4.50
04. Country John 4.46
05. Basic Lady 2.59
06. Southern Nights 3.38
07. You Will Not Lose 3.42
08. What Do You Want The Girl To Do?” 3.42
09. When The Party’s Over 2.38
10. Cruel Way To Go Down 3.55
All songs composed by Allen Toussaint
Have you ever felt a southern night?
Free as a breeze
Not to mention the trees
Whistling tunes that you know and love so.
Just as good even when closed yours eyes.
I apologize to anyone who can truly say
That he has found a better way
Have you ever noticed southern skies?
It’s precious beauty lies just beyond the eye.
It goes running through your soul
Like the stories told of old
He and his dog that walked the old land
Every flower touched his cold hand.
As he slowly walked by
Would cry for joy, joy
Feel so good
Feel so good
Wish I could stop this world from fighting.
La da da da da da la da da da da da da da da . . .
Mysteries like this and many others in the trees
Blow in the night
In the southern skies.
They feel so good it’s frightening . . .