1968, Music

Gris-Gris (1968) by Dr. John, The Night Tripper

This is my first Dr. John record for some reason.

My understanding is that “Dr. John” didn’t exist prior to the recording and that he was an invention of Rebennack’s for the purpose of his recording; the character was to be played by someone else. But one of Rebennack’s collaborators didn’t like the person he had in mind and suggested Rebennack play it himself, and an entire career was launched. Life’s weird.

My only encounter with proper New Orleans music comes from the one Wild Tchoupitoulas record in 1970s and Treme. By Treme so much pop rock had already been adsorbed but even by the 1970s a lot had likely been absorbed into New Orleans music, as it once again became a commercial entity. So my frame of reference for this is not great, especially as to the degree to which this is a “psychedelic” version of New Orleans R&B.

Because I find this record, like so many labeled “psychedelic” from this period, to be not particularly psychedelic.It sounds much more to me like something else, with perhaps the odd psychedelic production touch and perhaps a willingness to record a more authentic form of New Orleans music than would have been recorded prior to psychedelia. (What I mean by that is that, prior to psychedelia, there would have been pressure on performers to fit their sound into conventional sounds, something that changed drastically with the popularity of psychedelia and this album sure seems like it’s the product of a time when conventional pop rock songwriting wasn’t such a big deal.)

I like the music a lot – I have no idea to what extent it’s original or to what extent Dr. John e al. just took from those around him, but it has a unique vibe that sounds utterly foreign to most of the psychedelic music being made at the time. That vibe is also distinctly New Orleans.



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