Little Liberties

On Friday night, Lara and I got to see Allen Toussaint play — the first time I’d seen him perform solo.  He was phenomenal, and his set list was lighter on cheese, and heavier on ’70s deep-cut masterpieces, than when we saw him last year with his full band. At both shows, he closed with “Southern Nights,” which (both times) included an extended monologue about his childhood in New Orleans and visits to see his relatives in the country.  He’s a master raconteur, and he will be sitting on the throne in rock-and-roll heaven, so far be it from me to complain about his anecdote duplication.  Do you complain about getting the same brand of mints on your pillow every time you go to the Four Seasons?  (Perhaps one day I’ll be able to answer that question and/or verify the accuracy of its presumption.)

Little Liberties” is a descendant of “Southern Nights” in that they’re both nostalgia songs.  I also went for a tremolo vocal effect here that tips the hat to the effect Toussaint used on the original recording.  Lyrically, it’s a reminiscence on a high-school party where there’s a sense that anything can happen.  Sort of a more innocent, pastoral version of “Big Schools” from the last Baby Teeth album.  Perhaps this song is closer to “Jack and Diane,” in its hold-on-to-sixteen-as-long-as-you-can-ness, than to “Southern Nights,” but I’ll gladly take either comparison.

10 Responses to “Little Liberties”
  1. B. Berkowitz says:

    Fascinating little bridge…has a chirping-crickets vibe (I tried to create a sound like that once in the later sections of an oh my god song called “Aura,” although it was less of a bucolic-sounding section than this). The rest of this song conjures up some haunting Flamingo harmonies for me…

  2. Abraham says:

    Thank you sir…. the background vocals were definitely the most fun part of this one. The micro-bridge was was created by accidentally taking the MIDI piano information and dumping it into the MIDI drumkit.

  3. B. Berkowitz says:

    Technological mishaps: “They’re the soul of the business!”

  4. johnnyride says:

    great song, abraham! i’ve been obsessed with ‘southern nights’ myself lately (it’s been a glen campbell and harry nilsson kind of time lately) and thinking about how great allen toussaint’s songs are. i’ve been trying to rewrite southern nights this week with little success.

  5. Philly McG says:

    Magnificent stuff A, kickin’ it back to what you do best, and you do it well… come around Boston or Worcester next time you’re in Mass with your almighty band of Teeth and I can guarantee a packed house. Thanks buddy!

  6. Abraham says:

    BB: You got that right.

    JRide: Indeed. I just picked up this Toussaint box set called “The Complete Warner Bros Recordings,” which compiles all the 70s solo records plus an amazing 1976 live performance. I cannot recommend it strongly enough.

    PMcG: Thanks for the hearty praise and the northeastern love.

  7. I knew this was going to be a hot cut as soon as I heard the opening strains. The repetition in the piano-stylings and the song-story nature of the piece recall for me “Meeting Across The River,” and I know you’re a devotee of Bittan, to some degree.

    I love extended monologues within songs. I’m curious as to how it popped off in Toussaint’s case, exactly.

  8. Abraham says:

    Thanks P M S. Nice reference! “Hey Eddie can you give us a ride….” Toussaint was very deliberate about delivering this monologue. Keeping the piano accompaniment going the whole time of course, and consciously starting the spoken portion with, “You know, when I was a boy growing up in New Orleans…” He’s clearly done variations of this story several thousand times, but as I stated above, who gives a fig.

    I’m excited that people are responding so much to this song, since to me it sounded like a B-side all the way!

  9. Lara says:

    What a great melody.
    I love the chirping crickets!! That is one of the most nostalgic sounds in the world for me.
    One of the highlights of Toussaint’s monologue (for me) was describing the wise old grandma on the porch rocking chair. When she stopped to take a nip from her flask, the world stopped. Everyone paused until she started rocking again. Kind of like his show!
    Anyway–this is a beautiful, haunting song.

  10. Abraham says:

    Yes, I’m a sucker for this pastoral stuff too! Glad you liked it. I’m going to go have a nip from my flask, and perhaps stop the world in the process.

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