DR. JOHN - The ATCO Albums Collection (2017)
Grammy-winning American singer Dr John has died at the age of 77 after suffering a heart attack.
This fine set on Atco combines his first seven solo albums, recorded for Atco between 1968 and 1974. All are presented in replica card sleeves, some in gatefold, so itís quite a package. By then, Dr John had already built up quite a following with live and session work, working with New Orleans musicians both in New Orleans and Los Angeles. His debut (billed as Dr John The Night Tripper), Gris Gris, was released in 1968 and although failed to chart it did receive rave reviews at the time. The sound is at times quite off the wall, the ríníb having quite a regional sound, the Voodoo and Psychedelia in equal measure. Occasionally quite experimental, thereís also a nod to the more earthy ríníb played by Eric Burden and War four years later. It does take a listen or two before you get into it, but it is worth it. Some great sounds (and a decent melody or two too). 1969ís Babylon (fantastic solid gatefold sleeve) lyrically drew on the zeitgeist, the assassination of Martin Luthor King, the Vietnam War, so itís quite heavy. Thereís a little less Voodoo and more powerful soul to the ríníb. Thereís still a touch of rockíníroll, The 8 minute Twighlight Zone is a moving moody epic, the music soul searching, moving from slow ríníb to voodoo jangle and back again. Psychedelia indeed. Remedies (1970) is an album overlooked by controversy and drugs, there was a lot going on at the time in and outside the music, and the 17 minute Angola Anthem is a song / story related to Dr John by a friend who spent 40 years in Angola (the prison, not the country), a ďHorrible place to beĒ. Some nice blues in the ríníb, itís a moody meaningful journey. 1971ís The Sun Moon And Herbs was a dark swampy affair that was cut from the intended triple album to a single LP. Opening with some decent piano (think Billy Joel on a downer). This was Dr Johnís first album to make the Billboard Top 200. The album features a stripped down band (Dr John handling vocals, guitar, piano, organ, vibes), thereís the Memphis Horns who add a solid touch, and guests on the album include Graham Bond and Eric Clapton. Dr Johnís Gumbo (1972) is a tribute to the music of New Orleans, so a couple of self penned numbers pepper covers of period / regional music. And fine it is too, a little more uplifting than some of his earlier work. If you donít know Iko Iko, you will recognise the melody. Mess Around is more uptempo, another well-known number. Peaking at í24, 1973ís In The Right Place was Dr Johnís biggest selling solo album. Largely a collaboration with Allen Toussaint, the album is more accessible, with shorter songs that donít skimp on talent or melody. Punchy and perfect. Dr Johnís final Atco album was 1974ís Destively Bonneroo. Again it sold well and is another solid listen, more commercial than his earlier work.
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