Last Train

Album: Southern Nights (1975)

Songfacts®:

  • Allen Toussaint released his R&B concept album, Southern Nights, in May 1975 on Reprise records. The album was described by Toussaint in a 1994 interview with Philip Sweeney of UK's The Independent as "My best album ever." It has been re-released many times on vinyl and CD.
  • Southern Nights was Toussaint's tribute to evenings he spent on the porch with his Creole family while growing up in New Orleans, Louisiana. Since his time in New Orleans, Allen Toussaint has worn many hats in the music industry: musician, composer, and record producer to name a few. In early 60s, he wrote and produced a string of hits for New Orleans R&B artists such as Irma Thomas, Art & Aaron Neville, and Les Dorsey. Some songs in this period were produced under the pseudonym Naomi Neville. His songs have been recorded over the years by such diverse artists as Otis Redding, The Yardbirds, The Rolling Stones, Ringo Starr, and Alison Krauss. Interest was rekindled in Toussaint's work in the 80s and 90s when it was sampled by a number of hip hop artists including Gravediggaz, Jay-Z, and Queen Latifah.
  • "Last Train" is the lead single from the album, and a good example of the piano riffs and horn arrangements that are classic Toussaint. The lyrics go the railway route, as Toussaint compares himself to a huffing and puffing train, trying hard to reach its destination. This could be a response to the pressure he was feeling to record as a solo artist, as he described himself as a "reluctant performer" and had a hard time recording his own material. Said Toussaint: "My experience with other artists made it hard for me to look at myself from the outside."
  • In 1998, Allen Toussaint was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, though he was listed as a non-performer. In his biography on the Hall of Fame's website, this disparity is commented upon, "It's worth noting that although he was inducted in the 'non-performer' category, Toussaint is a talented pianist and performer who has recorded under his own name." It seems that Toussaint's solo work, like the album Southern Nights, was often overshadowed by his work behind the scenes. In fact, when Toussaint released the album in 1975, he had also worked on Labelle's album, Nightbirds, and the Paul McCartney & Wings album, Venus and Mars. Nightbirds spawned the #1 US hit "Lady Marmalade," and Venus and Mars held the top spot on the US Album charts for 77 weeks and the UK Album charts for 29 weeks.

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