Positive Music Place

CD Review: Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint, “The River In Reverse”

Posted by dlockeretz on January 21, 2011

I’ve never been a huge Elvis Costello fan, but one thing I’ve admired about him, besides his longevity, is his ability to put himself in a lot of different musical situations, without making it seem like a gimmick.  Case in point is this project with New Orleans musical icon Allen Toussaint.

With Costello singing most of the lead vocals and playing some guitar and organ, and Toussaint playing piano and singing as well, the two deliver a solid set of 13 originals (some written individually, some together).    On songs such as “Six Fingered Man”, “International Echo” and “The Sharpest Thorn”, Costello’s quirky pop sensibilities come through without seeming forced.  The Southern flavor is strong too.  The dark, jazzy piano of “Ascension Day” is infectious; the fat horn section and tasty keyboards and guitars on “Tears, Tears and More Tears” is guaranteed to get booties shaking.  Slower songs such as “Nearer To You” and “All These Things” recall the Neville brothers.  “Freedom for the Stallion” sets a beautiful melody over a tasteful, Gospel-influenced background, with lyrics that provide an eloquent take on the theme of “Can’t we all just get along?”

There are a few cuts that feel a little like filler, although even the somewhat forgettable “Wonder Woman” makes good ear candy, and “Broken Promise Land” has a lot of potential, but somehow the fragments never quite seem to materialize into a cohesive whole.

Nevertheless, this is one of the best records I’ve heard in a while, and it will undoubtedly inspire me to dig deeper in the catalogs of the two men behind it.



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