Dr. John - The Atco Albums Collection album review
“Jock-a-mo fee na-né” (it says here)
After a decade as an in-demand session musician, Mac ‘Dr. John’ Rebennack came up with his own medicinal compound, a hearty gumbo laced with R&B, jazz and psychedelia, liberally seasoned with the voodoo mythology of his New Orleans home. The calling card was 1968’s Gris-Gris, distinguished by Mama Roux and the epic (and frequently covered) I Walk On Gilded Splinters; a true original, at once both sinister and welcoming. A new album arrived each year without fail, the likes of Babylon and Remedies consolidating the spooky vibes.
Yet for all the cult praise and seals of approval from contemporaries, it was his fifth release, Dr. John’s Gumbo, that established him as New Orleans royalty, thanks to his interpretative magic on the music of the city’s famous sons Professor Longhair and Huey ‘Piano’ Smith, including the ubiquitous Iko Iko.
The final two albums in this collection, In The Right Place and Destively Bonnaroo, were made in tandem with another Crescent City mainstay, Allen Toussaint, and the muscular accompaniment of The Meters.
It could be argued that Rebennack’s later work flirted with novelty (albums of standards, etc), and although there have been intermittent sparkly gems down the years it’s this first seven that make up the cornerstone of his reputation.