Thursday, January 21, 2010
Dr. JOHN, The Night Tripper - Gris Gris 1968
1987 Issue AL 3904
Covered in a variegated spray of New Orleans Mardi Gras feathers and shiny voodoo baubles, Mac Rebennack's highly personal mythology was finally made real on this 1968 album. This was his first appearance made under the new guise of Dr. John Creaux, the Night Tripper. Before then, he'd been a pivotal figure on the Crescent City R&B circuit. Afterward, he became one of its most significant blues ambassadors. This album is a classic of the admittedly specialized psychedelic swamp-gumbo genre, boasting at least four tracks that have become cult favorites. "Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya-Ya," "Mama Roux," "Jump Sturdy," and "I Walk on Gilded Splinters" each delicately mix catchy choruses and weird spatial sound effects, with radical stereo separation, intensely croaking, close-quarter vocals from the doctor, pneumatic keyboard riffs, pinprick electric guitar, and booming Afro-Caribbean percussion. The album still stands at its original 33-minute length, with no bonus cuts unearthed, but its high density more than compensates for any brevity. By Martin Lonely.
The first time I heard this record, I thought: "This is awful: Poorly recorded, out-of-tune instruments and voices, uninspired and pretentious tracks..." I was looking for something like 'Gumbo' -one of my favourite records of all time- and found something completely different instead: No funk, little Blues and almost no piano.
However, after some time, I gave it another try -without any prejudice- and was gladly surprised. I had been mistaken... Next time I realized it, I was wanting to hear 'Walk On Guilded Splinters' and 'Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya-ya' again and again. I read a few things about the great Dr. John and found out that actually those songs (that are not traditional, but composed by himself) were used FOR REAL in vooodoo gatherings and even rites! They sure transmit a very 'haunting' mood, to say the least. Was I hoodooed? -Shivering-
To me, those tracks are worth the entire album, although 'Danse Fambeaux' and 'Mama Roux' are also interesting. The reason why, having such classic tracks, I do not give it the top mark is because I feel that the album is a little too short and uneven. Anyhow, it is still a landmark album for Dr. John that was a very risky bet at the time of its release (Ahmet Ertegun, boss of the record company, hated it).
I bet those sessions were conceived with some mixture of true spirituality and humour. These days, when I feel psychedelic, I play Jimi Hendrix's '1983' or 'Gris-Gris' if I want to shiver a little bit...
By Miguel Angel Martinez Rolland.
Bob Fraser, Bob West- Bass
Ronnie Barron, Shirley Goodman, Tami Lynn- Vocals
John Boudreaux- Drums
Richard "Didimus" Washington- Percussion
Harold Battiste- Bass, Clarinet, Percussion
A1. Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya Ya 5:34
A2. Danse Kalinda Ba Doom 3:44
A3. Mama Roux 2:55
A4. Danse Fambeaux 4:53
B1. Croker Courtbullion 5:57
B2. Jump Sturdy 2:19
B3. I Walk on Guilded Splinters 7:57