Dr. John – The Atco/Atlantic Singles 1968-1974 – Omnivore

Dr. John – The Atco/Atlantic Singles 1968-1974 – Omnivore OVCD-1949, 70:53 ****1/2 :

(Dr. John – piano, with unnamed but certifiably funky backing musicians and female vocalists)

Describing Mac Rebennack, AKA: Dr. John The Night Tripper, to someone from another country/galaxy is no easy feat. Mac has been going strong in his Naw’lins cool persona for well over five decades. With his gris gris persona complete with amulets providing juju, Dr. John can mistaken for a novelty act. That is until you hear what the man is putting down. Rebennack is an all-star pianist covering R&B, boogie, blues, stride, and a history of the New Orleans gumbo of musical genres. He is also known for his distinctive growly voice that would be hard to imitate as he throws in inflections and vocalese. [And don’t miss his great solo piano CD {under the name Mac Rebennack} on the Clean Cuts label…Ed.]

He drips with authenticity and his drawl has no comparisons. Only Mose Allison comes to mind for funky hipster word turns. Mac’s reputation was cemented during his Atlantic/Atco years from 1968-1974, a period when he was young looking and more known sartorially for his outlandish garb  and wild Mardi Gras headgear.

The 22 tracks on this outstanding compilation contain the majority of Mac’s most well known repertoire, ranging from “Iko, Iko,” “Right Place Wrong Time,” “Such a Night,” “Let’s Make a Better World,” and “Big Chief.” Dr. John is a true ambassador for the delirious party life that the Crescent City provides. He is both a superb show man as evidenced on The Band’s The Last Waltz concert movie,  as well as a consummate pianist, whose appearance as an accompanist on stage helps up the funk quotient immediately.

This early batch of Dr. John does not have overly heavy production numbers. The sidemen are less featured than the African American background singers that remain unnamed but rival some of the singers from Twenty Feet from Stardom fame.

Less recognized on this collection are some spot-on social commentary (that brings to mind Randy Newman) such as “The Patriotic Flag Weaver” and “Right Place Wrong Time”. Mac’s societal comments are covered funkily on “Let’s Make a Better World” and (“Everybody Wanna Get Rich) Rite Away.”

Dr. John, the Night Tripper is one mighty voodoo man. He has the cure for what ails ‘ya. Putting your trust in his tinctures and potions is guaranteed to put a little giddy’up in your strut. Let Mac take you there…

TrackList: The Patriotic Flag Waver, Mama Roux, Jump Sturdy, I Walk on Gilded Splinters (Parts I & II), Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya Ya, Loop Garoo, Wash Mama Wash, Iko Iko, Huey Smith Medley (High Blood Pressure, Don’t You Just Know It, Well I’ll Be John Brown), Wang Dang Doodle, Big Chief, A Man of Many Words (with Buddy Guy), Right Place Wrong Time, I Been Hoodood, Such a Night, Cold Cold Cold, Life, Let’s Make a Better World, Me-You = Loneliness, (Everybody Wanna Get Rich Rite Away, Mos’ Scocious

—Jeff Krow

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