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Gris-Gris

4.5 out of 5 stars 57 customer reviews

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Gris Gris
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Audio CD, May 9, 2000
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

The most exploratory and psychedelic outing of Dr. John's career, a one-of-a-kind fusion of New Orleans Mardi Gras R&B and voodoo mysticism. Great rasping, bluesy vocals, soulful backup singers, and eerie melodies on flute, sax, and clarinet, as well as odd Middle Eastern-like chanting and mandolin runs. It's got the setting of a strange religious ritual, but the mood is far more joyous than solemn. ~ Richie Unterberger, All Music Guide

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Covered in a variegated spray of New Orleans Mardi Gras feathers and shiny voodoo baubles, Mac Rebennack's highly personal mythology was finally made real on this 1968 album. This was his first appearance made under the new guise of Dr. John Creaux, the Night Tripper. Before then, he'd been a pivotal figure on the Crescent City R&B circuit. Afterward, he became one of its most significant blues ambassadors. This album is a classic of the admittedly specialized psychedelic swamp-gumbo genre, boasting at least four tracks that have become cult favorites. "Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya-Ya," "Mama Roux," "Jump Sturdy," and "I Walk on Gilded Splinters" each delicately mix catchy choruses and weird spatial sound effects, with radical stereo separation, intensely croaking, close-quarter vocals from the doctor, pneumatic keyboard riffs, pinprick electric guitar, and booming Afro-Caribbean percussion. The album still stands at its original 33-minute length, with no bonus cuts unearthed, but its high density more than compensates for any brevity. --Martin Lonely
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (May 9, 2000)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Collector's Choice
  • ASIN: B00004SW9R
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #263,498 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
If the only Dr. John stuff you've heard is his more trad New Orleans stuff, you may be unprepared for this amazing debut. This album sounds like it was recorded from the deep of a voodoo night! Specifically,it conjures up a gris gris(voodoo) ritual put on record with great percussion, spooky music that goes from something unbelievably funky(Mama Roux) to something almost barouque(the second and fifth tracks for instance) rooted in a different, darker side of New Orleans than, let's say, Fats Domino or Allen Touissaint! Swampy is a good adjective to describe it-echoey and delirious are two others! Vocally the arrangements are amazing with Dr. John taking center stage around both men and women singers weaving great lines and sometimes making animal sounds! The character of Dr. John (a real gris gris doctor from the 1800's) as well as all things hoodoo are the basis for all the lyrics. The musicians are playing very free and at times "out" so it may be a little too weird for some ears. But if you have adventerous tastes, this album belongs in your collection because there is definitley no album like it. It is evocative, funky, DANGEROUS, and, best of all, musically brilliant. You won't be disappointed.
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Format: Audio CD
There've been various reissues of this album over the years -- Alligator, Repertiore, and now Collector's Choice -- I have no idea how this particular CD edition stands up -- Alligator's was great, Repertiore's sounded like it was mastered off shoddy worn vinyl and then de-noised to such an extent that the sound lost nearly all of its booming depths, and Collector's Choice (though again, I haven't heard this particular version) have as a label distinguished themselves over the past 7 or 8 years by allowing cut-rate remastering talent to come in and ruin some of the 1960s best and most obscure albums (Skip Spence's OAR, the United States of America album, etc.) -- whatever: forewarned is five-armed. As for the album itself, I've safeguarded an original ATCO pressing through countless rent-strikes, burglaries and relocations, and it's one of the few I'd actually admit into that stupid Desert Island Disc rostrum. It's worth reading Rebennack's shambling autobiography to get the larger story, but to wit: a bunch of seasoned New Orleans 50s studio vets, relocated to Los Angeles after many difficult narcotics travails and incarcerations, take advantage of (a) their Atlantic/Ertugen Bros. studio connex, and (b) the ubiquitously gullible hippy thing happening all around them, and come up with a psychedelic voodoo medicine show which (no matter how much of a joke some of them may later make it out to be) is far too genuinely steeped in authenic New Orleans culture and real studio chops to relegate it to the wastebin destined for so many other 'novelty' acts of the time. Chinese-water-torture percussion, snake-slick slide guitar, and Dr.Read more ›
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By A Customer on July 2, 1999
Format: Audio CD
Music to conjure memories I never had. Absolutely primal, the only things that I've heard to compare are maybe a couple of Hank Williams songs, and, oddly, Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures and Amon Duul II's Phallus Dei. Music that you feel has been around since the beginning, lurking somewhere, waiting to be played. The performances make me see shadows dancing across the New Orleans graveyards, where the tombs are above ground. "Walk On Gilded Splinters," forget about it - Humble Pie butchered it in a really fun way, so that's alright, and I think Johnny Jenkins did a version, but no one ever matched the smoldering mood that Mac Rebennack's band managed to give to it here. It's like they're playing it in a cave on the edge of a swamp or something. The rest of the album has the same mood: percussive, tribal, old European, very much a product of its place.
It's no surprise the album's out of print, obscure psychadelic classic that it is and record companies being what they are. Still, it's a shame. Gris-Gris is a masterpiece.
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Format: Audio CD
The first time I heard this record, I thought: "This is awful: Poorly recorded, out-of-tune instruments and voices, uninspired and pretentious tracks..." I was looking for something like 'Gumbo' -one of my favourite records of all time- and found something completely different instead: No funk, little Blues and almost no piano.
However, after some time, I gave it another try -without any prejudice- and was gladly surprised. I had been mistaken... Next time I realized it, I was wanting to hear 'Walk On Guilded Splinters' and 'Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya-ya' again and again. I read a few things about the great Dr. John and found out that actually those songs (that are not traditional, but composed by himself) were used FOR REAL in vooodoo gatherings and even rites! They sure transmit a very 'haunting' mood, to say the least. Was I hoodooed? -Shivering-
To me, those tracks are worth the entire album, although 'Danse Fambeaux' and 'Mama Roux' are also interesting. The reason why, having such classic tracks, I do not give it the top mark is because I feel that the album is a little too short and uneven. Anyhow, it is still a landmark album for Dr. John that was a very risky bet at the time of its release (Ahmet Ertegun, boss of the record company, hated it).
I bet those sessions were conceived with some mixture of true spirituality and humour. These days, when I feel psychedelic, I play Jimi Hendrix's '1983' or 'Gris-Gris' if I want to shiver a little bit...
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