Monday, January 11, 2010
Dr. JOHN - City Lights 1978
This CD holds a very unique place in music because first, its a complete aborration from Dr. John's usual style of work, and second, its a certain kind of music of which there is not enough of in the world. Its difficult to explain, especially since it's unavailable to sample here, and believe me, I went all over the internet until I located a couple of samples. But this album takes you to a special place in music that was long ago, perhapse in some golden era. Somewhere deep within a bustling downtown city, long ago and late at night you might have expected to find this music. It would be the sound you heard way up high on the 21st story of a tall skyscraper, fully dressed in the tux of the times with cufflinks and all. There is a big band that playes the tunes of the times, while everyone is arrayed and dancing in modern fashion of the era. You look out of the window of that 21st story building, and you feel like the city is yours for the night.
This is a portion of the picture that this album's spell casts on me. Its a distinguished album of the upmost quaity, sophisticated and shiny. If you're wondering 'how can this be the product of that voo-doo singer they refer to as the good doctor?' well, I offer no explanation. Simply that it is what it is, a total deviation from what our good doctor was known for, and what's more a delightful one. I am convinced that this little known elegency is Dr. John's best work of all time. Every time I tried to like his work, it just wasn't quite what I wanted, but almost. Well, this is the album that delivered. A complete 5 star. And it goes beyond music because it doesn't just offer one artist's sound, it brings with it a whole experience from one golden age, maybe one that's only found in your imagination.
The songs that leave the biggest impressions are as follows:
"Dance the Night Away" is happy, celebrating about long awaited and finally found love in the nighttime streets of downtown.
"Street Side" is found in the suburbs. Street life. Old brown brick buildings serve as the backdrop walls in this story.
"Rain". A cloudy day, depressed against the grey silhouettes of tall buildings.
"Fire Of Love". Love happily ever after. How can things go wrong? It feels like it will last a lifetime. Everything's going to be alright now.
"Sonata/He's a Hero" is a portrait of one slick character. He lives in the spotlight of the nightlife in top hat and tux. Lady's man, lavish and cool.
"City Lights". A sad finish for today, a lonely one. But a bright hope for tomorrow in this big city of adventure.
And as for the musical side of it, well, its all here. One masterpiece of an artist detailed to the last degree. Even the album art is amazing, synchronized to the music's every step. You may or may not love it, or get as much out of it, but it definitely deserves a place among music's finest, even though alot unknown. Try it.
Long out of print, this is a welcome return for one of Mac Rebennack's most overlooked gems. It's not simply because of the quality of musicians here (people like guitarist Hugh McCracken, drummer Steve Gadd, and others) or Tommy LiPuma's excellent production. It was the good Doctor continuing to pull away from the alter ego that had served him so well earlier in the '70s and putting down some new roots (this album, really, is half of a pair with Tango Palace). To that end, he co-wrote with the venerable Doc Pomus, and through there are only eight songs here, every one is wonderful. There's a strong jazz feel to the record, starting the course he'd steer during the '80s. There's still, inevitably, a Crescent City feel to the performances -- it's so ingrained in everything Rebennack does -- but also a hipster sensibility that's redolent of berets and smoky basement clubs. If you're a Dr. John fan and don't have this, you need it as part of the missing link between two eras of a career. And if you haven't properly discovered him yet, this is a great way to ease through the door.
By Chris Nickson.
Alvin Robinson , George Jones* , Ronnie Barron , Tammy Lynn- Backing Vocals
Will Lee- Bass
Steve Gadd- Drums
Hugh McCracken , John Tropea- Guitar
Richard Tee- Keybpards
Charlie Miller- Cornet
Hugh McCracken , John Tropea- Guitars
Arthur Jenkins- Percussion
David Sanborn- Alto Sax
Ronnie Cuber- Bariton Sax
George Young- Tenor Sax
Dr. John (Mac Rebennack)- Vocals, Keyboards
A1. Dance the Night Away With You 4:20
A2. Street Side 5:59
A3. Wild Honey 4:08
A4. Rain 4:47
B1. Snake Eyes 6:44
B2. Fire of Love 3:21
B3. Sonata / He's A Hero 5:18
B4. City Lights 3:56