Dick’s Picks: This week, Dick has taken a trip into the mind-bending, genre-fusing mythical world of the one and only album from the often forgotten, Tonton Macoute.
So just who are Tonton Macoute?
Tonton Macoute was the name of a controversial presidential guard of Haitian dictator, Papa Doc Duvallier. Thankfully, the band itself is far less brutal than their namesakes, and they do make for strange bedfellows.
Their 1971 self-titled album, and one single a year later, are the only things that the band are known to have recorded. It is one of only 11 releases on the short-lived Neon Label, a specialist arm of RCA that lasted all of a year before vanishing in early 1972. Many of the bands on that released music with Neon disappeared or called it a day after just one release, including Tonton Mactoute.
Does the album justify the hype and mysticism?
Well, that depends on who you talk to. Seemingly part of Neon’s downfall was the albums they released were too ‘out there’ for the general public at the time, but then, like so many of the greats, they earned somewhat legendary status. Whispers throughout the prog intelligentsia led to people hearing more about Tonton Macoute.
At the core, they are a very classic British sounding jazz-rock band, but flourishes of blues, and touches of disjointed psych gives this album its own character and charm. The long songs, served by hypnotic instrumental passages that show Tonton Macoute enjoy dipping their toes into progressive waters, shows they were not afraid to throw the rule book out of the window while their peers were edging into much safer territory. A true hidden gem from the wonderful world of ‘70s prog, that even gets over looked by collectors who would give their right arm for a Leafhound or Bread, Love and Dreams LP.
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