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#143 - Gris-Gris (Dr. John)

by 14783513 |

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Released January 22, 1968"][/caption] Dr. John ("the Night Tripper", as he was also referred to) released Gris-Gris in 1968 and it was his debut album. It plays of the late 60s psychadelic-rock movement and also adds in some really obvious New Orleans jazz and blues rhythms, and focuses on many associations with voodoo culture. The album title, Gris-Gris is said to be any object or words spoken aloud in the practise of voodoo, and the first track  on the album, "Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya Ya" talks about how his gris-gris can "cure all your ills", although whether he's actually referring to voodoo or some other mind-altering substances...well, that line is a bit muddled (did I mention he used to be refer to himself as 'the Night Tripper'? oh right...). Track Listing
  1. Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya Ya
  2. Danse Kalinda Ba Boom
  3. Mama Roux
  4. Danse Fambeaux
  5. Croker Courtbullion
  6. Jump Sturdy
  7. I Walk on Guilded Splinters
After I listened to this album the first time, I said to my friend that parts of the album sound like a weird science experiment, and I couldn't figure out why. But then I did more research and found out that there are voodoo influences in the music, and I realized that the sometimes spooky, strange, or science-like sounds might stem from that influence? No disrespect to any voodoo practices or anything, especially since I don't know much about it, but I definitely heard a distinctly different sound on this album.
The second track, Danse Kalinda Ba Boom reminds me of a few things:  its got some tribal or ceremonious drumming and chant-like lyrics to, that are repetitive and sound like an incantation.
This is definitely an exploratory album. Dr. John (or Mac Rebennack, his real name) was struggling with some drug and law problems, so he moved from New Orleans, where he was a an established musician, to Los Angeles. He actually created the name Dr. John and wanted a fellow-musician to take the pseudonym, but ended up becoming Dr. John himself.
Overall, this album is pretty spooky. There are a few tracks that are a little more main-stream, and possibly could've been marketed as singles. For example, "Mama Roux", a song that reminds me of Eric Burdon and War, or "Jump Sturdy",  which is a catchy, funky, choral song that apparently was derived by a song Rebennack's grandpa sang in minstrel shows.
This album ends with "I Walk on Guilded Splinters", a song that is just less than eight minutes and kind of drones on with an ominous eerie sound, and then ends with mysterious growling and slurping noises. It really is a bizarre, but interesting album to listen to, and so I've read, has gotten much more praise now then it did when it was released. Its the most unique album I've listened to on the list so far. And I've got to say, I just love how distinct the sound is, and how clearly the New Orleans influences can be heard.
Next up (another major shift), a Phil Spector Christmas album. Christmas in April? Okay!

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