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The River In Reverse [CD/DVD Combo] CD+DVD

4.2 out of 5 stars 56 customer reviews

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Audio CD, CD+DVD, June 6, 2006
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

A landmark recording! Recorded in both LA and New Orleans, this marks the first major session in the Crescent City since Hurricane Katrina The River in Reverse contains inspired versions of Toussaint classics, and brilliant new collaborations by these legendary songwriters. Includes a bonus DVD (Limited edition - initial run only) Putting the River in Reverse, a 30-minute making of documentary by filmmaker Matthew Buzzell, has already been accepted to several prominent film festivals including the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival in NYC.

Some inspired music has arrived in the wake of Hurricane Katrina (mainly on New Orleans-themed benefit albums), but nothing as audaciously ambitious as this cross-generational collaboration between Crescent City mainstay Allen Toussaint and former British upstart turned adventurously eclectic veteran Elvis Costello. As a songwriter, producer, and arranger, Toussaint has been responsible for hits from artists ranging from Irma Thomas, Ernie K-Doe, and Lee Dorsey to the Pointer Sisters and Labelle. Costello, long a huge fan of Toussaint's music, sings relatively familiar fare such as "On Your Way Down" and "Freedom for the Stallion" from Toussaint's extensive songbook along with obscurities mainly recorded by Dorsey. Toussaint supplies his distinctive piano and horn arrangements--as well as lead vocals on "Who's Gonna Help Brother Get Further?"--with Costello's Imposters serving as the rhythm section. Yet the real revelation comes from the new material, including the title track (a searing Costello composition in the Toussaint soul-spiritual mode) and five new Costello/Toussaint compositions that spotlight Toussaint's signature sound without diminishing Costello's creative contributions. What could have been a curiosity is instead a hallmark in the catalog of each artist. --Don McLeese

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. On Your Way Down
  2. Nearer To You
  3. Tears, Tears And More Tears
  4. The Sharpest Thorn
  5. Who's Gonna Help Brother Get Further?
  6. The River In Reverse
  7. Freedom Of The Stallion
  8. Broken Promise Land
  9. Ascension Day
  10. International Echo
  11. All These Things
  12. Wonder Woman
  13. Six-Fingered Man

Product Details

  • Audio CD (June 6, 2006)
  • Original Release Date: June 6, 2006
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Format: CD+DVD
  • Label: Verve Forecast
  • ASIN: B000FBH476
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #250,605 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Steve Bonds on June 6, 2006
Format: Audio CD
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.
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Format: Audio CD
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.
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Format: 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.
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