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Locked Down

4.4 out of 5 stars 97 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

New Orleans legend Dr. John's Nonesuch debut, produced by Black Keys guitarist and uber-fan Dan Auerbach, distills half a century of this Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee's picaresque musical history, melding his shamanistic stage persona with the authority of a consummate studio musician, the cosmic conjurer with the street-savvy poet. The ten new songs on Locked Down, written by Dr. John with Auerbach and a handpicked crew of backing musicians, combine incantatory chants ("Ellegua") and often politically charged raps ("Revolution") with candid and soulful reflections ("My Children, My Angels"), swaggering R&B ("Big Shot"), and a healthy dose of hypnotic, simmering funk ("The King Of Izness"). As with much of what this multiple Grammy-award winning singer and composer has recorded over the last five decades, the Big Easy is the musical and spiritual jumping-off point, but these new tracks incorporate a world's worth of influences, from gospel and blues to psychedelic rock and Afro-beat.

Auerbach had reached out to the iconic pianist, composer and singer better known to friends and fans as Mac Rebennack in 2010, offering to produce "the best record you've made in a long time." After performing with Rebennack at the 2011 Bonnaroo Music Festival, Auerbach made good on that promise. The instrumental tracks for Locked Down were recorded at Auerbach's new Easy Eye Sound in Nashville and took shape during nine days of intense free-form sessions with the band Auerbach had originally assembled for Bonnaroo. Rebennack later returned on his own, with pages of lyrics, poems and ideas, to complete these songs. As Auerbach recounts, "Watching him come up with parts was just so awesome. Mac is fearless, Like that Farfisa solo on "Revolution" -- that's a first-take solo. He just goes for it, man. And he killed it." Though Rebennack is sought after by countless jazz, R&B and rock artists for his piano playing, Auerbach kept him away from the instrument while encouraging him to experiment with other keyboards. "I wanted to keep him a bit more edgy. I didn't want him to be outright retro in any way. And keeping him off the piano sort of helped. A lot of the music I played for Mac, when I went and visited him before the sessions, really perked up his ears - the really oddball stuff like the Ethiopian funk where the keyboardist is playing a Farfisa, those kind of good weird keyboard sounds."

With Auerbach's help, Rebennack recently featured on HBO's Treme, playing himself is poised to reclaim his position as master of the melting-pot Louisianan music style he pioneered in the late sixties under the guise of Dr. John, the Night Tripper. Funky, mysterious, downright mystical albums like Gris Gris and Babylon deeply influenced such artists as Eric Clapton and the Rolling Stones, who invited Rebennack to play on their infamous Exile On Main Street sessions, and this work has, arguably, altered the course of rock and roll. Auerbach's mission was "to bring back an awareness of him. I don't think he gets enough of the credit he deserves. After meeting him and talking to him and seeing the kind of stuff he was into, I knew that was still there, that person, that fire. He really was spiritual and cosmic but very much into conspiracy theory, politics. He had all the right things in his mind and I just knew I could get him to speak that language again."
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Digital Booklet: Locked Down
Digital Booklet: Locked Down
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (April 3, 2012)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Nonesuch
  • ASIN: B0074EIQUG
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (97 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #65,462 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
A ball of fire continues to reside within Dr. John, casting a poetic divergence between the artist and the title of his new set of tunes. "Locked Down" is a blazing fusion of highly literate, funky, southern-fried Americana, blues, pop, soul and R&B that shows the venerable New Orleans-born musician in full creative force, with each detail invigorating, precise and carefully-honed.

One can only hope that Nonesuch (this marks Dr. John's debut on the label) will know how to market the album correctly. "Locked Down" has the power to please not only lifelong appreciators of his verve and dexterity but has the power to reel in new listeners as well.

The life force that has Dr. John sounding remarkably invigorated at this later stage of his career has much to do with Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys, who assembled great players such as drummer Max Weissenfeldt and bassist Nick Movshon. They support him and this solid collection of tunes with passion and professionalism, causing the ingredients to slip into place like puzzle pieces.

The fast-moving set of ten tunes sounds ripe for the 70s LP album market in more ways than one. "Getaway" pulses with longing, grit and a hurts-so-good desperation that is downright infectious. "Kingdom of Izzness" is downright groovy and chilly, as is the dark social commentary of "Ice Age," while the entrancing poetry of the title track is anchored by steady percussion and hearty guitar licks.

There is a lifetime of experience in his voice and playing. When Dr. John sings a line such as "Don't take the easy road - there's no short cut" from the quietly insistent "My Children, My Angels" it comes with a specific and heavy weight attached to it that is instantly resonant.
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This is the most interesting Dr. John record in my opinion since "Gris Gris". Though not a showcase of his piano chops as much as his 70's stuff, the songwriting and production is so good, its just incredible. The african beats make a great accompaniment to Dr. John's voice. I was hoping for something new from this album, and it really delivers. A couple of rock-oriented singles, like "Locked Down" but overall some really complex and awesomely rhythmic sound textures.

I am a huge fan, as a native New Orleanian, and to be able to see the Dr. still laying down fonkyness at his age uplifts us all. Thanks to Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys for helping bring the Dr. back to where he needs to be, the Big Shot at the center of the NOLA universe!

Buy this. You won't regret it.
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Format: Audio CD
Although not as "swampy" as "Gris-Gris" this album captures the thickness, the humidity, the layers of New Orleans. Every song is a mix of a catchy groove, with appropriate psychedelic coloring, and even traces of almost Trip-hop/Hip Hop beats, all under the great Doctor's growl. Truly a musical gumbo that although made in 2012 feels at home in the any late 60s and early 70s playlist. Also the fuzz and slide guitar work ain't bad either.
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Format: Audio CD
Those of us who are true fans of Mac Rebennack know of the prodigious talent he brings to every project. Dr. John has been with us for a long time, and when he embraces the Night Tripper, he brings the listener to a deep place.
This is not "Gris-Gris", his great debut album - which is probably a lot deeper than the general public would want to go. It is not "Gumbo", as Dr. John used the original mid-Fifties musicians he played with in the Big Easy way back when to present New Orleans R&B to a new generation. You just can't reproduce that sound today.
But for a modern audience with modern ears, "Locked Down" presents the man hisself. Just as with Muddy Waters' project "Hard Again", we can hear acolytes who could be his grandchildren support the master as he once again shows everyone how it's done.
Get your passport to the electric swamp. The good doctor will heal your ills.
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Dr John's albums have always fit in one of 2 categories. Either they have been covers of other musicians material with a few similar new cuts tossed in, or all new material that pushes the musical boundaries. This release is firmly in the latter group. The people who think that Dr John's best material in the former group should consider yourself warned. This disc pushes the envelope while paying homage to the good doctor's early work. The first time that I listed to this, Locked Down sounded ok. Cut 2, Revolution is lyrically straight from 1968. Then Big Shot struts it's stuff. All the while I was thinking, I'm not really feeling it. Are all of Dr Johns fans this old and this stoned? Grammy?? It must have been a thin year. Then Ice Age brings me back to this century with it's infectious groove, unusual percussion and some other surprises, this is more like. Pushing the envelope. But then, we go back to 1968 for Getaway. Hmm, this could have come from Memphis or anywhere, but not New Orleans. Then Kingdom Of Izzness arrives and envelope just got a hard shove. You can call this one a classic. Right behind it You Lie lands on top of my head like a ton of bricks. There are more things going on in this one song than some musicians produce in their entire career. He needs to revise his greatest hits. Eleggua is the lyrically, but not musically, the strangest song on the disc. Do I hear a little Danse Kalinda in there? Anyone who is familiar with Dr John's early stuff will feel right at home here. The last 2 cuts My Children, My Angels and God's Sure Good will put those of you who prefer his covers of standards in a sentimental mood. In all, this is uneven and a bit scattered. But, there aren't any terrible songs here. There are many that should be added to his most memorable collection.
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