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Tonton Macoute

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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Tonton Macoute Tonton Macoute album cover
3.94 | 96 ratings | 9 reviews | 39% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1971

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Just Like Stone (6:30)
2. Don't Make Me Cry (8:48)
3. Flying South In Winter (6:26)
4. Dreams (3:57)
5. You Make My Jelly Roll (7:58)
6. Natural High (Part 1) (6:55)
7. Natural High (Part 2) (3:53)

Total Time: 44:27

Line-up / Musicians

- Paul French / acoustic & electric pianos, organ, vibes, vocals
- Dave Knowles / alto & tenor saxes, flute, clarinet, vocals
- Chris Gavin / bass, acoustic & electric guitars
- Nigel Reveler / percussion

Releases information

Artwork: Keef

LP Neon ‎- NE4 (1971, UK)
LP Akarma ‎- AK 149 (2001, Italy)

CD Repertoire Records ‎- REP 4467-WP (1994, Germany)
CD Repertoire Records ‎- REP 5197 (2010, Germany)

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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TONTON MACOUTE Tonton Macoute ratings distribution

(96 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(39%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(44%)
Good, but non-essential (14%)
Collectors/fans only (3%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

TONTON MACOUTE Tonton Macoute reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
4 stars Had some lenghts been reduced and the production been more concise , this would've been a major masterpiece in my book but also in others. This is jazz-rock inflicted rock that moves into improv sometimes. The vocals are inspired and all musicians have good mastreing of their respective insrumennts especially Knowles with his winds. They unfortunately made only one lp and one can see that this band with so many of thoese times (Raw Material, Running Man, Titus Groan, Comus, Spring ,Touch, Gracious, Steel Mill and so many others) that there was no room for them. I can only urge you to get a listen to this album and get a shot at those other listed here because this is in a danger of disappearing ( although, the CdD released lessened that)
Review by lor68
3 stars Actually my score in the average is brought about a bad production only, cause- talking about the other features within the album- there are a lot of interesting breaks-through inside, especially when they decide to abandon the territory of blues and look for a kind of improvisation close to the jazz rock genre. Sometimes their mood reminds me of the music feel which characterized the British school by Steve Hilage in the seventies, even though the output is completely different and much closer to bands such as Spring, Raw Material and so on,than any other typical progressive rock band from Europe "exploding" some years later only and performing a more mature music.Anyway, coming back to the present album, their use of the acoustic piano is quite good and the walking bass lines as well, despite of being not so much inspiring...well never mind !!As a matter of fact- when their harmony is similar to some progressive passages of the "golden epoch"- they are able to find a personal arrangement within the raw scene of such "Proto Progressive" school and to me that's enough.

You could also have a comfortable sit and find the valid alternative, for instance in comparison to the music of Colosseum (one of the best UK bands in the seventies, able to mix blues,improvisation and progressive rock, despite of remaining often in the classic rock blues territory)...make your own choice!!

Review by Trotsky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Everybody's got their favourite obscure prog-rock band that should have been huge ... and I came to this album with pretty high expectations after reading some rave reviews. I can't really say that Tonton Macoute deserve all the accolades, but they certainly merit far more attention that they received. The sole Tonton Macoute album (which came out in 1971) is an occasionally dazzling, feel-good jazzy prog effort in the vein of mid-period Traffic. Indeed, as if emulating Steve Winwood and Chris Wood, the main instruments are the electric piano of Paul French and the flute and sax of Dave Knowles (the pair share vocals too).

Every track is enjoyable as this album just flows by effortlessly. Just Like Stone is pretty darned good, but it's Don't Make Me Cry that really has it all ... a lengthy brash sax solo dominates its opening before the ethereal, heavily distorted vocals take over, sparkling electric piano moments follow and then a delicate flute solo from Knowles dominates before French returns on vibes and deals the final blow with a top-notch acoustic piano solo. Another real highlight is the two-part closer Natural High, which sees French switch to organ and he and Knowles really turn in a jazz-rock tour de force that calls to mind some of Colosseum's best moments ... also look out for the huge chunk of classical piano lifted off a legendary composer!

On occasion, such as the lengthy instrumental Flying South In Winter, the intensity of this album and my attraction to it wanes a little, but whenever I find myself beginning to doubt, Tonton Macoute hit back with aplomb. The surpring darkness of Dreams (which sees a change of instrumentation with bassist Chris Gavin picking up the guitar, and French on the vibes) is well-timed to jerk any listener out of any creeping apathy. There are pieces like You Make My Jelly Roll which will only appeal to fans of jazz, but really this album is one of the more light-hearted ouvres in prog, and should be appreciated as such. ... 70% on the MPV scale

Review by Matti
4 stars Tonton Macoute is one of those British one-album-bands of the early 70's of which SPRING is my favourite this far, but in a mature musicality these guys are near the top. Line-up: ac. & el. piano, organ, vibes, vocals / bass, guitars / Alto & Tenor saxes, flute, clarinet, vocals / drums, percussion. Easy to guess: it's fusion. Jazz-rock with bluesy tones. At first listening I was very impressed. I was prepared for the not- perfect production, but the music was more accessible and had much more "groove" than I had expected. It served as great background music for a nature programme, and I played the whole album twice at once.

With later listenings I thought that some tracks don't use the full potential to develop in given time (7-8 minutes). That means it serves perfectly indeed for the background but with full concentration it's not that special all the time, if jazz/fusion in general is familiar to you. Nice flute in some tracks. Excellent playing all over, and also vocals are OK, perhaps a bit impersonal. 'Dreams' has a lovely hazy atmosphere. Martin suggests that 'You Make My Jelly Roll' will only appeal to fans of jazz. Probably so - it IS jazz -, but I say how on earth COULD anyone dislike jazz when it's this groovy! It sends your mind dancin' in the gloomy night, feelin' happily blue.

About the digipak sleeve: threefold inner picture is a deppressing scene of a heap of wrecked cars that doesn't suit at all to the music. And the text in the back is irritatingly almost unreadable as the tiny letters are pink on greenish grey. Anyway, recommended for friends of fusion. (3,75)

Review by Atavachron
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Warm sounds from this unassuming English foursome who played the earthy rock/jazz/pop alchemy so available to bands of the time. They do a lovely job, too, and show an earnest feel for the music. Familiarities as Brubeck, Van Morrison, and BS&T are here as well as peers like Raw Material or The Running Man. And I hear little problem with the production on the reissue-- it sounds as the original did, full and round.

There is, however, a good deal of musical derivation that distracts from a full embrace of the material, the band more than once imitating any number of jazz & pop standards, e.g. 'Fever', 'Moondance', and other hits. Perhaps in 1971 that was still cool. Bucolic notes and a taste of Zep circa '69 for 'Just Like Stone', a perfectly nice vocal number from keyboardist Paul French and windman Dave Knowles. Blues-jazz 'Don't Make Me Cry' has some surprises at nine minutes (these guys can play), and eastern chimes open 'Flying South in Winter' with strong flavors of Bo Hansson from French's wonderfully dusty organ. Some moody bluesdom and echoplex pop in 'Dreams', closing on parts 1 & 2 of 'Natural High', a masterful display of freeform progressive jazzrock at its most genuine. Very nice if flawed.

Review by siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
4 stars TONTON MACOUTE released their sole album in 1971 on RCA's shortlived progressive Neon label (which also hosted Spring, Indian Summer and Dando Shaft). The band started out in 1968 when Nigel Reveler (drums) and Paul French (vocals, keyboards, vibes) answered an ad in a magazine and joined up with Chris Gavin (bass, guitars) and Dave Knowles (alto/tenor saxes, flute, clarinet). After several label changes they finally landed their debut album on Neon.

The name was taken from a Haitian paramilitary force created in 1959 which was known for its reign of terror, so what an unlikely name for a band that delivers some of the most breezy and pleasant music that I would refer to as the Camel of jazz-fusion because they only deliver highly soft, melodic and light breezy bluesy jazz-fusion that was in stark contrast to the heavyweights of the era. Traffic and even Chicago come to mind at times. Many of the tracks are long and complex but all are different from one another.

The beginning track "Just Like A Stone" sets the relaxed flute and organ dominated sound that sets the mood of the entire album. The rest of the album follows suit with interesting interplay between the wind intruments, the piano/organ, guitars and bass with occasional vibes. Great riffs, excellent melodies and sizzling solos. Unfortunately the band and the label both went under shortly after this interesting debut. Although this isn't the OMG long lost obscurity that everyone hopes to find, it is nevertheless a very satisfying listen that definitely deserves to have the dust blown off of it.

Review by Mellotron Storm
4 stars Man this album is like a warm blanket on a winter's night. Warm, breezy and always jazzy this album veers off into Proto- Prog territory at times which is maybe not so surprising since it was released in 1971. We get sax, clarinet, flute, organ and vibes besides the usual instruments. This is a melodic album with some excellent songs. It's really hard to believe that most Prog fans wouldn't really like this album.

The first three tracks are my top three just to get that out of the way. "Just like Stone" won me over right away with those almost southern rock harmonies bringing THE BAND and ALLMAN BROTHERS to mind. Organ to start then it kicks in with drums, piano and more. Vocals and bass before 2 minutes. I like the instrumental break before 3 1/2 minutes led by the flute, but the vocals return quickly. Some Ron Burgandy-like jazz flute before 4 minutes. What a great opener. "Don't Make Me Cry" opens with organ that brings to mind SUGARLOAF of all bands. Drums, bass and horn joins in. This is quite jazzy as they seem to jam here. Vocals arrive before 2 1/2 minutes singing "Don't make me cry" a few times before he sings other lyrics. Such a groovy sound here. A change before 3 1/2 minutes as piano, drums and bass lead before these passionate vocals kick in. Horns start to blast. The bass starts to walk as the organ and flute return before 5 minutes. Great sound. Piano to the fore at 6 1/2 minutes as the organ and flute stop. The flute is back around 8 minutes. Killer tune.

"Flying South In Winter" is an instrumental and it opens with sparse intricate sounds that come and go including flute reminding me of an orchestra practicing before a gig. It kicks into a flute led groove before 2 minutes. So good! Bass and percussion standout as well. Horns and organ join in before 3 minutes. Solo percussion before 5 minutes but it's brief as it kicks back in.

"Dreams" does have that dreamy sound to start, even the vocals sound that way off in the distance. It picks up each time on the chorus. A Proto-Prog vibe here, especially the harmonies. Fuzzed out guitar after 2 1/2 minutes during an instrumental break then it picks up sounding like a late 60's tune with those vocals. "You Make My Jelly Roll" is the one controversial track on here clocking in at almost 8 minutes. It's jazzy and humerous with the focus on the vocals and piano. It does sound sort of lame like a 50's hit or something. The bass is jazzy too and the horns will replace the vocals before 4 minutes in this prolonged instrumental break where the bass continues to walk and the piano tinkle. Vocals are back after 7 minutes. I don't mind this one as it's kind of charming in it's own way.

"Natural High Part 1" opens with solo piano melodies then the organ kicks in before 1 1/2 minutes followed by vocals, bass then drums. Horns too. Great sound before 2 minutes. What a fantastic instrumental section from before 2 1/2 minutes until after 5 minutes. It picks back up when the vocals return to this catchy groove. "Natural High Part 2" has these intricate sounds as vocal melodies come and go. He's pretty much scatting after a while. Flute joins in as well then the horns blast late to end it.

This is close to 4.5 stars, it's that good. Well worth checking out if you can.

Latest members reviews

5 stars TONTON MACOUTE were a short-lived British Jazz-Rock band, previously known as Windmill. Tonton Macoute were bizarrely named after the paramilitary death squad created by "Papa Doc" Duvalier in Haiti in 1959. Their one and only self-titled album released in 1971 contained seven tracks, and featu ... (read more)

Report this review (#2307849) | Posted by Psychedelic Paul | Saturday, January 18, 2020 | Review Permanlink

4 stars A Natural High rated one. One of the most interesting minor bands of 70s British prog, Tonton Macoute released a very good debut album, sometimes even excellent. The music is jazz - blues pleasant and melodic, very far from the intricate complexity of other exponents of the genre, with the a ... (read more)

Report this review (#443564) | Posted by Dark Nazgul | Friday, May 6, 2011 | Review Permanlink

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