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Rob Greaves

The Cream of The Crate - Record #3

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The third album I’m featuring is a significant deviation from the Blues Mastery of Howling Wolf, and the Soul Mastery of Otis Redding. This album features both the composition and playing skills of Mack Rebennack (Jnr) – real name Malcolm John “Mack’ Rebbanack, and the seriously weird synthesis of his music style with the Voodoo and Hoodoo of the Creole mystique, mixed with just a tincture of psychedelic strangeness.

This is the “Gris Gris” album released under the banner of Dr John the Night Tripper.

From the Cream of the Crate Collection – An album in my collection that is irreplaceable, and simply a classic!
Dr Johns web site says of him, “His very colorful musical career began in the 1950s when he wrote and played guitar on some of the greatest records to come out of the Crescent City, including recordings by Professor Longhair, Art Neville, Joe Tex and Frankie Ford."

Further trouble at home sent Dr. John west in the 1960s, where he continued to be in demand as a session musician, playing on records by Sonny and Cher, Van Morrison, Aretha Franklin and The Rolling Stones' infamous Exile On Main St. to name a few.”

In fact he took onboard elements of the men he played with and studied, particularly the unique style of piano playing of Professor Longhair – himself a New Orleans blues singer and pianist.

Dr John has released a significant number of albums, and it is Gris Gris that grabbed my attention. He created a transfixing album based upon Cajun Voodoo mixed with a dynamic and rhythmic musical backing and a dash of southern swamp music– and, using his own gravely voice and ethereal female backing singers produced a lasting piece of highly original work.

The good Doctor describes his group during one of his many incantations. My group consists of Dr. Poo Pah Doo of Destine Tambourine and Dr. Ditmus of Conga, Dr. Boudreaux of Funky Knuckle Skins and Dr. Batiste of Scorpio and Bass Clef...(rambles on)...who were all dreged up from the rigolets by the zombie of the second. Under the eight visions of Professor Longhair reincannted the charts of now."

Gris-gris, also spelled grigri, is a voodoo amulet originating in Africa and those polyrhythmic African beats permeate the track, mixed with just the right amount of western psychedelic rock. Tracks vary between the hypnotic chant style of ‘Gris Gris Gumbo Ya Ya” through to the dance pace of “Danse Kalinda” and the very threatening, but entertaining, “I Walk On Guilded Splinters”.

The Album was spectacularly unsuccessful, except with a hard-nosed group of fans in both the USA and Australia. I was fortunate enough to be introduced to this album very shortly after its release and that ATCO original remains a treasured LP in my collection. The CD was released many years later and touched a sympathetic nerve with a new audience, who have gone on to discover and recognise, that whether as Dr John, or Mac Rebbanack, he has produced some remarkable music. He garnered Grammy award wins in 1989, 1992, 1996 and 2000. In 2004, his musical love letter to the city of New Orleans, “N’awlinz Dis Dat or D’udda,” was awarded the prestigious Académie Charles Cros 57ème Palmarès award in France. It was the first time since the 1970s that an artist from North America received the award.

So like the previous two albums, this also has pride of place in my collection. Some readers may question his inclusion – but turn the lights down low, maybe light a few candles, and listen to Gris Gris – you may never be the same again.

Released on ATCO in 1968,
Side 1.
1. Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya Ya
2. Danse Kalinda Ba Doom
3. Mama Roux
4. Danse Fambeaux

Side 2.
1. Croker Courtbullion
2. Jump Sturdy
3. I Walk on Guilded Splinters

Unfortunately I have been unable to locate any video of Dr John doing tracks from this album, even though I remember two such video clips being used in the late 70’s. So although not from the Gris Gris album, below the two music pieces from the Gris Gris LP below, is a Youtube clip most closely reflects the music from this album.

Dr John The Night Tripper with - Gris Gris Gumbo Ya Ya

Dr John The Night Tripper with - Danse Kalinda Ba Doom

Previous Cream of The Crate Albums

#1 – Howling Wolf: Real Folk Blues

#2 – Otis Redding: Otis Blue/ Otis Redding Sings Soul

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Updated 8th April 2013 at 07:47 PM by Mick Pacholli

Rob Greaves , The Cream of The Crate