the cream of the crate – album #1: howling wolf

 

 

cream of the crate: album # 3 – dr john_gris gris This review was originally posted on the first Toorak Times web site which was abandoned for its current site in March 2017. The old site will be permanently closed in 2020 and these reviews are being re-published in order to preserve them on the current Toorak Times/Tagg site. 

“I Walk on Gilded Splinters” endures as a classic — a masterpiece of vibe that has retained its aura even after being sampled and covered every which way" - RollingStone. "An innovative, brilliant and at times unsettling synthesis of New Orleans musical traditions – jazz, funk, rhythm and blues". - theguardian.com/music/

The third album I’m featuring is a significant deviation from the Blues Mastery of Howling Wolf [Review #1], and the Soul Mastery of Otis Redding [review #2].

This album features both the composition and playing skills of Mack Rebennack (Jnr) – real name Malcolm John “Mack’ Rebbanack.  It is a seriously weird synthesis of his New Orleans music style of music with the Voodoo and Hoodoo of the Creole mystique all mixed with just a tincture of psychedelic strangeness.

This is the “Gris Gris” album released in 1968 under the banner of Dr John the Night Tripper.

It is an album in my collection that is irreplaceable, and simply a classic!

Mac Rebennack began playing music in New Orleans clubs at a young age and at 13 years of age met the iconic Professor Longhair whose own flamboyant style of dress and piano playing had a lasting effect upon him. 

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, then Mac Rebennack, west in the 1960s, where he continued to be in demand as a session musician. He played on records by Sonny and Cher, Van Morrison, Aretha Franklin and The Rolling Stones’ infamous Exile On Main Street, 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.

His first release was a Bo Diddley influenced instrumental called “Storm Warning” which was released on Rex Records in 1959.

Working in and around New Orleans he became very interested in New Orleans style voodoo and in fact, the persona he took as Dr. John was inspired by a 19th century voodoo practitioner.

it was in his persona of Dr. John that I became aware of Mac’s music, in 1969. 

cream of the crate: album # 3 – dr john_gris gris

He has released a significant number of albums and it was the 1969 Gris Gris album that grabbed my attention when it was bought into a shared house i was living in.

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.”

cream of the crate: album # 3 – dr john_gris gris 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 in style with the hypnotic chant style of Gris Gris Gumbo Ya Ya worthy of sharing with you.

Gris Gris Gumbo Ya Ya

Then there is the dance pace of Danse Kalinda – a track that will have you swaying to the drums and chanting “Danse Kalinda” as you swirl into a trance.

Danse Kalinda

The final track that I will share with you and the very threatening, but entertaining, “I Walk On Guilded Splinters.

It’s half sung, half chanted, an almost ethereal choir steeped in voodoo zanj slips in behind the Doctor as the heavy down-beat of the drums sets a scene of mists,. swamps and voodoo magic as the houngan entrances us.

Some people think they jive me
But I know they must be crazy
Don’t see dey misfortune
Guess they just too lazy
 
J’suis the Grand Zombie
My yellow belt of choison
Ain’t afraid of no tom cat
Fill my brains with poison
 
Walk thru the fire
Fly thru the smoke
See my enemy
At the end of dey rope
 
Walk on pins and needles
See what they can do
Walk on gilded splinters
With the king of the Zulu
 
Kon kon, the kiddy kon kon
Walk on gilded splinters
Kon kon, the kiddy kon kon
Walk on gilded splinters
 
‘Ti Alberta (‘ti Alberta)
‘Ti Alberta (‘ti Alberta)
‘Ti Alberta (‘ti Alberta)
‘Ti Alberta (‘ti Alberta)
 
Roll outta my coffin
Drink poison in my chalice
Pride begins to fade
And y’all feel my malice
 
Put gris gris on your doorstep
Soon you’ll be in the gutter
I can melt your heart like butter
A-a-and I can make you stutter
 
Kon kon, the kiddy kon kon
Walk on gilded splinters
Kon kon, the kiddy kon kon
Walk on gilded splinters
 
‘Ti Alberta (‘ti Alberta)
‘Ti Alberta (‘ti Alberta)
‘Ti Alberta (‘ti Alberta)
‘Ti Alberta (‘ti Alberta)

 

Walk On Guilded Splinters

Wow!! 

The Album was spectacularly unsuccessful, except with a hard-nosed group of fans in both the USA and Australia.

 

cream of the crate: album # 3 – dr john_gris gris
Rear of the Gris Gris album. [CLICK to enlarge]

cream of the crate: album # 3 – dr john_gris gris

 

I was fortunate enough to be introduced to this album very shortly after its release and I was fortunate enough to purchase the UK version of his 1968 Gris Gris album which almost unplayable due to being overplayed, it 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 his remarkable music.

Interestingly, in response to the renewed interest in vinyl, ATCO, the original label. re-released the album but in what can only be described as a very bizarre printing error, had the LP label with the title – Dr John The Night Stripper!

cream of the crate: album # 3 – dr john_gris gris
Check carefully as the Night tripper has become the Night Stripper! [ CLICK to enlarge]

 

Bizarre is certainly a label that continues to follow the good Doctor!

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.

In 2003, the album was ranked number 143 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time

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

cream of the crate: album # 3 – dr john_gris gris

 

 

 

 

 On June 6, 2019, Malcolm John “Mac” Rebbanack – Dr. John died of a heart attack.

 

 


 

VIDEOS –

Unfortunately I was unable to locate any videos of Mac Rebbanack as Dr John doing tracks from this album. It drove me crazy because I recall at least one film clip played in the 1970’s in full regalia coming down the side of a mountain at night, with him and his entourage all lite up with torches to the music of Gris Gris Gumbo Ya ya. 

I have found a couple of YouTube clips that show Mac at his best.

Dr. John – Goin’ Back To New Orleans

These clips are very old and yet they capture the energy and power of Dr John.

Call the Doctor & Qualified

 

Right Place Wrong Time

 

 

 

 

Previous Cream of The Crate Albums:

Click to open.

#1.   Real Folk Blues

#2.  Otis Redding: Otis Blue