Dr. John, the Night Tripper - Gris-Gris - Review
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critics' view

In a year chock-full of absorbing eccentrics, Dr. John more than holds his own in the higher echelons alongside Marc Bolan, Captain Beefheart and Nico. Way back in ’59, Mac Rebennack had made his first declaration with the phenomenal “Storm Warning” 7” single. Here in ’68, his would-be career nom de plume, Dr. John, was now ready to be launched. And he dared to be different – perhaps only Screamin’ Jay Hawkins can be held up as a direct forebear of these death moans and shamanic groans served on a Bayou gospel bed. The druggy, voodoo cousin of “Astral Weeks” anyone?

Not everyone recognised the brilliance within these swampy blues grooves. Atlantic executive Ahmet Ertegun exclaimed: “How can we market this boogaloo crap?” Richie Unterberger’s reissue liner notes say it best: “When Dr. John's Gris-Gris hit the rock underground in 1968, it wasn't certain whether its master of ceremonies had landed from outer space, or just been dredged out of hibernation from the Louisiana swamps. The blend of druggy deep blues, incantational background vocals, exotic mandolin and banjo trills, ritualistic percussion, interjections of free jazz, and Dr. John's own seductive-yet-menacing growl was like a psychedelic voodoo ceremony invading your living room. You could be forgiven for suspecting it of having been surreptitiously recorded in some afterhours den of black magic, the perpetuators of this misdeed risking life-threatening curses for having exposed these secret soundtracks to the public at large.”

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