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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I know they will return like they've never gone away...
At the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage festival earlier this year, Elvis Costello was featured as a "special guest" of Allen Toussaint. That same billing holds true for this entire album. I'm not knocking Costello's contributions - far from it. But the real star of this album is Allen Toussaint. From his songs to his piano playing to his vocals, Allen Toussaint is the...
Published on June 6, 2006 by Steve Bonds

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An interesting pairing, but it's just not what it could have been.
An interesting labor of love, THE RIVER IN REVERSE turns out to be a solid collaboration of styles without any significant surprises. Playing to the strengths of both artists, this collection of songs from both Costello and Toussaint has all the requisite sounds: slow haunting horns, jazz and blues tempos throughout, and heartfelt vocals from Costello making for a pretty,...
Published on March 7, 2008 by J. Carroll


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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I know they will return like they've never gone away..., June 6, 2006
At the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage festival earlier this year, Elvis Costello was featured as a "special guest" of Allen Toussaint. That same billing holds true for this entire album. I'm not knocking Costello's contributions - far from it. But the real star of this album is Allen Toussaint. From his songs to his piano playing to his vocals, Allen Toussaint is the primary force behind the music.

Those of us fortunate enough to attend this year's Jazz Fest got a sneak preview of this album, and we knew it was going to be great.

Before the Jazz Fest performance, I was only familiar with Toussaint's more popular songs such as "Working in a Coal Mine" and "Fortune Teller." I was also very aware his masterful piano playing ability and his incredible horn arrangements. One thing I didn't fully appreciate was the depth and breadth of his songwriting.

After an extremely upbeat opening set by Toussaint and his band, Costello joined him on stage for a string of songs beginning with "On Your Way Down," the same song that opens this CD. The biting lyrics made me think it was co-written by Elvis Costello, but I found out later it was indeed entirely written by Toussaint years ago. The song eerily evoked the political mood in post-Katrina New Orleans and seems to be a perfect opener for this album - especially considering some of Costello's more biting lyrics later on.

As he did in New Orleans, Costello evokes a soulfulness on this record that hasn't sounded this strong since Get Happy, and now that his voice has matured even more he sounds even better - especially on "Nearer to You."

Allen Toussaint's vocals shine on "Who's Gonna Help Brother Get Further." His phrasing is some of the most unique and elegant phrasing in the history of American popular music. Why he hasn't had any major hits featuring his own vocals is a mystery to me. This song also conveys Toussaint's funky side extremely well - Steve Nieve's keyboards also help to add a funky vibe.

While many of the Toussaint classics that Costello chose to cover for this album are equivocally about corruption and impending justice, Costello's original lyrics are more direct and dark. Especially on the title track: "An uncivil war divides the nation, so erase the tape on that final ape running down creation."

To be honest, the darker tone of some of Costello's lyrics seems a bit out of place with Toussaint's generally upbeat vibe. Some of the songs on this album do sound like a dirge in places. Toussaint's performance at the Jazz Festival was more of a resurrection. The smile on his face when he first started perfoming this year was priceless. The upbeat vibe he conveyed from the stage to the crowd was infectious.

He and Costello closed their time together on stage with "Wonder Woman," the second to last song on this CD.

Following Costello's exit from the stage, Toussaint closed his set with "Yes We Can Can" and "There's a Party Going On" - the same song he opened it with. This time he added the chant "Home...Home...Everybody Come Home."

I wish this album had been a little more positive and uplifting at times - just as Toussaint's performance at Jazz Fest was. Still, Costello seemed to be trying to capture the immediate anger felt by many people following Katrina, and on that level his lyrics work. Toussaint's more upbeat songs balance things out a little.

The DVD is definitly worth getting. The documentary "Putting the River in Reverse" captures the recording sessions in Los Angeles and New Orleans. Toussaint's optimism shines and his desire to get back to New Orleans and to celebrate the music at Jazz Fest is clearly evident.

Also worth getting are the albums "I Believe to My Soul" and "Our New Oreans" - both featuring Toussaint on several songs.

For Costello fans (and I am one), this DVD combined with the bonus documentary on his "Club Date" DVD make for a great insight into Costello's appreciation of Southern Soul Music. (From Memphis through Mississippi and Arkansas and ending, with this DVD, in New Orleans)
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A monumental effort for a monumental city., June 7, 2006
When the Elvis Costello, Allen Toussaint collaboration was announced I was a bit skeptical at first. Costello's output has been very unpredictable in recent years. Toussaint's latest collaboration with John Henry was endearing but by no means very special. I felt this could become an amusing record at best. Both gentlemen prove me wrong on this outing.

The idea for record probably started after the flood of New Orleans. In the accompanying DVD Costello explains it was initially intended as a Toussaint songbook effort. While working on the project it evolved into more than that. Some five songs here are new collaborations between Costello and Toussaint. What immediately strikes you is how well these two gentlemen complement each other. Elvis' somewhat nasal and sandy voice is balanced out by the ever friendly and gentle backing vocals of Allen, the gruff instrumentations of the Attractions complemented by Toussaint's own Funky horn section and elegant piano playing.

Thematically the album approaches that of a protest album. Costello still proves to be the angry young man he was at the start of his career, albeit not so young anymore. Toussaint classics as "On Your Way Down" and "Who's Gonna Help A Brother Get Further" are complemented with the new "River in Reverse", a beautiful snarling track filled with horror about what occurred in the Crescent City. The album is filled out with some beautiful love songs from the Toussaint catalog that function as a counter to the political material and bring balance to the record. Elvis delivers al these songs with a passion and conviction you haven't heard from him in years. The album is an emotional rollercoaster, it makes you want to laugh, dance, sing, cry and scream, all in the course of an hour.

This album could very well be what Springsteen's Rising was to 911. It is as much a balm for the soul as it is an indictment to the Bush administration and those who left the poor of New Orleans to fend for them selves in the onslaught of the flood. Yet the record never gets bitter. It honors the city's spirit and music. The music is intended to lift you up, to be critical yet soothing, to give voice to anger yet to heal wounds. A monumental effort for a monumental city.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Every man a crawling kingsnake...", December 31, 2006
This review is from: The River in Reverse (Audio CD)
The most searing of musical indictments during 2006 didn't come from some young buck MC or a snorting enraged punk band. It came from a pair of wizened musical vets. Elvis Costello teamed up with Allen Toussaint and dropped this amazing 13 song collaboration that both celebrates the spirit of New Orleans' music makers at the same time it ravages those that willingly stood off and averted their eyes. "Ascension Day" is this album's centerpiece, mournfully delivering the lyric "40 days passed by, 40 alibis" with the clarity of his best work. "The River In Reverse" takes on this dichotomy and doesn't flinch. The angry young man of old finally gets to harness his vitriol to a new cause, and Toussaint gives Costello a whole new batch of colors to work with.

Oddly enough, it is the catalog numbers from Toussaint that really bring out the soul to "The River In Reverse." Versions of "Tears and More Tears," "Freedom for the Stallion" and "Who's Gonna Help Brother Get Further" (with the lead sung by Toussaint) make their emotional mark to the time, even despite their age. Toussaint's arrangements (often not varying much from their older recordings) also draw out some of Costello's better vocal skills. He sounds more soulful here than on his "My Flame Burns Blue" CD, released with the same year as "The River In Reverse."

Toussaint also managed most of the production duties on "The River In Reverse," and it is to the CD's benefit. Neither as creamy smooth as "North," disjointed like "When I Was Cruel," or as raw and rugged and "The Delivery Man," the music here strikes the perfect balance. It is Costello's best sounding disc since "Painted From Memory" with Burt Bacharach. (Oddly enough, also a collaboration with one of Costello's idols.)

But it is this CD's title track that will draw the most attention. A bitter diatribe that rivals Costello's "Shipbuilding" or "Peace In Our Time," it takes on the intentional methods of divisiveness that the authorities attempted to use when shielding their own inadequacies. (Think "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job.") "An Uncivil war divides the nation," Costello notes in the song's final verse. It's his best song in ages, frankly. And it adds to the multitude of riches that Costello and Toussaint pour into "The River In Reverse."
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant: An absolute triumph!, June 8, 2006
By 
Yossi (Silver Spring, MD) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The River in Reverse (Audio CD)
All I can say is that this record has exceeded my expectations. Mind you, I was just a bit nervous: what??! nervous with two such monumental talents teaming up? Let me explain. A huge fan of EC, I am however no big fan of The Delivery Man, Costello's last effort. Despite some great musicianship and some fine songs, I felt that Elvis was sometimes flagrantly oversinging and over-emoting on The Delivery Man. And here's the thing: when Elvis doesn't TRY to be passionate, he IS an awesomely passionate and powerful vocalist period. On Deliver May,though, in my opinion (and there may be those who differ), he was just trying too hard to SQUEEZE out the passion and pain from those oh-so-tortured Southern songs. But here: maybe it's the presence of the great Allan Toussaint (there's noone cooler), a master himself of understated vocals, or the fine producer, Joe Henry, but whatever it is: EC is not oversinging like on Delivery Man. He is just singing: deep, dark, truthful, soulful, powerful, searing, smoking...I could go on and on, but I won't. This is a terrific record, both men get enormous kudos...the songs, the arrangements, the lyrics (haunting and apocalyptic images of walls tumbling, and such, throughout). It is a wonderful triumph of musicianship, vision and artistry, worthy of the two great artists who have produced it.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint...it doesn't get much better than this...., January 5, 2007
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This review is from: The River in Reverse (Audio CD)
This collaboration is totally AMAZING.....soulful...meaningful- probably on a personal as well as on a more alturistic/socially relevant level..and finally, very sexy. I've been a fan of Elvis since the late 70's...GOD am I that old?? He has always inspired and made me think beyond the borders. Now I am a fan of Mr. Toussaint's as well. The CD starts off wonderful and keep giving more and more. Even when you think you have already heard the best it can possibly offer, it then crescendos and ROCKS you with SIX FINGERED MAN..! It's really hard to pick a favorite on this one. FREEDOM FOR THE STALLION will make you stop in your tracks and THINK. It's is one of those basic...true...important pieces that make you take notice. THE SHARPEST THORN is extremely melancholy, and personal. BROKEN PROMISE LAND, THE RIVER IN REVERSE, ASCENSION DAY, and INTERNATIONAL ECHO (Love that one!!) have Elvis' print all over it...and can ONLY be made even better and just absolutely perfect with Mr. Toussaint's contribution. Mr. Toussaint's ALL THESE THINGS is totally amazing!!! Very true and just damn sexy. WONDER WOMAN will make you smile and just want to get up and dance. Just give yourself a gift this new year....and treat yourself to this CD. You will not be disappointed.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't Overlook The CD/DVD Combo, May 4, 2007
This review is from: The River in Reverse (Audio CD)
Yes indeed! So you're thinking about getting this great collaboration that came out in 2006 on CD, which is a wonderful thing to be thinking about, as most of the other reviewers here will attest to. But hey, please don't forget to look in the next bin at THE EXACT SAME TITLE IN THE CD/DVD COMBO PACKAGE (ASIN: B000FBH476) AND IT'S FOR THE *EXACT SAME PRICE*!! What was that? Well SOMEBODY you know must have a DVD player, and they can invite you over for dinner! It's worth it on so many levels, just to see them starting the project in LA, see them at Sunset Sound breaking out the ever-so-soulful song "What Do You Want The Girl To Do" (not on the CD), see them talking about actually going to The Big Easy soon after Katrina and debating whether it's a good idea or not since it could be seriously discouraged by the authorities, not to mention real upsetting for Allen Toussaint (having just lost his house and possessions there), see them flying coach from LA to NO, and then see them pick up the sessions again at a studio right there in the Crescent City! The material from the CD comes to life ten-fold, and the city by (and still in) the river welcomes them with open arms! As Toussaint says at one point "There will always be a New Orleans, and now.. there will be a Very New Orleans!" It's a joy to watch.

So to re-cap: the CD's great, 4 stars. But don't forget to look one shelf over at the CD/DVD combo, an easy 5 star package. And at zero extra dollars, it's a no-brainer!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An inspired collaboration, August 14, 2006
By 
Tim Niland (New Jersey, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The River in Reverse (Audio CD)
Elvis Costello is modern pop music's ultimate chameleon, bouncing from pop to country and even orchestral experiments all with the breathless enthusiasm of the newly converted. In this case he's fortunate to have an old hand guiding the way in the person of composer and producer Allen Toussaint. Costello has explored soul and funk before, but never with the conviction he shows here. Toussaint reigns in Costello's self-aggrandizement, provides some killer songs and plays piano to boot. As can be expected, the songs shake an angry fist at both man and nature in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Toussaint lost a home and friends in the disaster, and while Elvis can't claim such bona fides, he calls upon a sense of indignation that is still fresh nearly thirty years after My Aim Is True. "Who's Gonna Help A Brother" and "Tears, Tears and More Tears" provide rippling horn laden funk extolling the virtues of helping your fellow man, while "River In Reverse" takes on the flood directly, lamenting a city that will never be the same. "Freedom for the Stallion" adapts an older Toussaint song with a devastating lyric about "men making laws to destroy other men..." Costello refuses to give into the temptation to ham it up and delivers one of his most powerful performances in quite a while. There have been many songs and albums recorded about Katrina and New Orleans, but the dignity and beauty of this music makes it one of the most memorable.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The River Runs Just Fine, July 3, 2006
This review is from: The River in Reverse (Audio CD)
To bash (the sometimes polarizing) Elvis Costello for championing the GREAT Allen Toussaint is to entirely miss the point of this music and CD.

Allen Toussaint has truly created one of the greatest, slyest,and often most elegant & understated catalogues of modern music in the world. Period. And artists as diverse as Aaron Neville-Frankie Miller-Lee Dorsey- and Brian Hyland have sounded MIGHTY sharp..often interpreting the same Toussaint tunes.Costello fits into the"musical democracy" of Allen Toussaint just fine!

This collection of classic,and some new compositions

is both a heartfelt reminder and proof positive that Allen Toussaint deserves better than background/cult status and classics like "All These Things","Freedom For The Stallion"

are major compositions that EVERY music lover should know.

The assembled band is fine, Costello's vocals are skillfully delivered,and the collaborative efforts are sincere.

Is this either's GREATEST work? Perhaps not.Is it a fine CD

of music?? YOU BET IT IS!!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hardly Boring Costello. Great Intro to Toussaint, July 1, 2006
By 
This review is from: The River in Reverse (Audio CD)
I never even heard of Toussaint before this album. This is not a bad thing because now I know he's a talent worth listening to, and it's because of Elvis that this is so. As a fan of Elvis, I've loved some of his collaborations (Bacharach, Painted From Memory) and completely dismissed most others. This is a very good collection of old and new songs. I'm very impressed with the musicianship, very lively and exciting. Don't pay attention to the 1-star reviews below - they are very unfair to this worthwhile album. Give it a chance and you'll be surprised.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Elvis, pretty damn good; Toussaint brilliant, October 16, 2006
This review is from: The River in Reverse (Audio CD)
I bought this after hearing Elvis Costello do some of the songs at the Hardly/Strictly Bluegrass Festival recently. Elvis did a thrilling version of the title track with just voice and guitar.

The album is different. Elvis recaptures a bit of his angry-young-man passion, which is fine. But mostly the album is about Toussaint, and the New Orleans sound, and how freaking great they are. "Ascenion day" with just Elvis singing and Allen playing the most beautiful piano you've ever heard, is the highlight.
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The River in Reverse
The River in Reverse by Elvis Costello (Audio CD - 2006)
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