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TONTON MACOUTE

Jazz Rock/Fusion • United Kingdom


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Tonton Macoute biography
They got their names from the Haitian dictator Papa Doc Duvallier's brutal presidential guard that was named TONTON MACOUTE. Why, I am not sure but if that name is original, so is their sole album released on rare and collectable Neon Record (also SPRING and INDIAN SUMMER). Paul French on kbs and vocals is not to be confused with the awesome Pete French singer in ATOMIC ROOSTER and CACTUS and LEAFHOUND. The rest of the band consist of Chris Gavin on bass and guitars, Dave Knowles on winds and vocals, Nigel Reveler on drums.

Their record is full of jazz-inspired prog rock with long instrumental interplay in even longer tracks. Their music oozes fun and good-natured moods and should please most everyone, even the ones wary of jazz-tinged music, as this is hardly their only inspiration. Highly recommended to the progheads that seek to deepen their knowledge of early 70's prog rock and looking for unknown gems such as this one. This got released on CD by Repertoire Records.

: : : Hugues Chantraine, BELGIUM : : :

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Tonton MacouteTonton Macoute
Import
Repertoire 2002
Audio CD$6.92
$7.60 (used)
Tonton MacouteTonton Macoute
Import
Indies Japan/Zoom 2010
Audio CD$20.00
$23.00 (used)
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AKARMA
Vinyl$75.00 (used)
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TONTON MACOUTE discography


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3.78 | 52 ratings
Tonton Macoute
1971

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TONTON MACOUTE Reviews


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 Tonton Macoute by TONTON MACOUTE album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.78 | 52 ratings

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Tonton Macoute
Tonton Macoute Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by siLLy puPPy
Prog Reviewer

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.

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 Tonton Macoute by TONTON MACOUTE album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.78 | 52 ratings

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Tonton Macoute
Tonton Macoute Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Dark Nazgul

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 add of some other stylistic influences: their style reminds me other bands such as Affinity, Raw Material, Traffic, Caravan, but even at Camel of "Rain Dances". The most notable thing is the delicacy of their way to play jazz, far away from the "harshness" of bands like Catapilla, Manavishnu Orchestra or Colosseum. Unfortunately, the collapse of the record label Neon ended the career of the band that will not be able to complete the recording of their second album.

The opening track Just Like Stone has a delicate instrumental organ introduction, close to the style of Caravan. After a section sung by many voices, there's an instrumental central part with a sudden change of pace and many flute solos. Don't Make Me Cry, perhaps the best track on the album, begins with an organ riff and stunning sax solos; then, a most relaxing section, with flute and piano solos. Flying South In Winter, has an exotic atmosphere and clearly looks like a piece of East of Eden purified from any kind of roughness, with beautiful interweaving by sax, flute and organ. In You Make My Jelly Roll the great fluidity and lightness of the instrumental passages is really amazing; the vocals is also sublime and very catchy. Natural High, divided into two parts, is perhaps the most experimental track of the album. In the first part, after a very melodic vocals, continuous rhythmic variations lead to a more symphonic final; the second part is a complex jazz improvisation on a theme built with vocalize, piano and wind instruments.

The weak point of the album is the short Dreams: it seems a Moody Blues or Barclay James Harvest song, definitely out of context and with rough guitar parts.

Highly recommended, not only to lovers of jazz-rock, but to all fans of progressive rock. Between four and five stars, my final rating is 8/10.

Best song: Don't Make Me Cry

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 Tonton Macoute by TONTON MACOUTE album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.78 | 52 ratings

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Tonton Macoute
Tonton Macoute Jazz Rock/Fusion

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.

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 Tonton Macoute by TONTON MACOUTE album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.78 | 52 ratings

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Tonton Macoute
Tonton Macoute Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Matti
Collaborator Neo-Prog Team

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)

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 Tonton Macoute by TONTON MACOUTE album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.78 | 52 ratings

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Tonton Macoute
Tonton Macoute Jazz Rock/Fusion

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

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 Tonton Macoute by TONTON MACOUTE album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.78 | 52 ratings

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Tonton Macoute
Tonton Macoute Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by lor68
Prog Reviewer

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!!

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 Tonton Macoute by TONTON MACOUTE album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.78 | 52 ratings

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Tonton Macoute
Tonton Macoute Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

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)

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