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From the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

Gris Gris

Dr. John

1968

Buy At Rough Trade
Gris Gris
Album Summary

Gris-Gris (stylized as GRIS-gris) is the debut album by American musician Dr. John (aka Mac Rebennack). Produced by Harold Battiste, it was released on Atco Records in 1968. The album introduced Rebennack's Dr. John character, inspired by a reputed 19th century voodoo doctor. The style of Gris-Gris is a hybrid of New Orleans R&B and psychedelia. It was recorded in California, albeit with several native New Orleans musicians. Gris-Gris failed to chart in the United Kingdom and the United States. It was re-issued on compact disc decades later and received much greater praise from modern critics, including being listed at number 143 on the 2003 and 2012 editions and at number 356 on the 2020 edition of Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

Wikipedia

Rating

2.87

Votes

9608
Genres
Blues
Funk
Jazz

Reviews

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Fri Mar 26 2021
5

Dr. John's Gris-Gris is among the most enduring recordings of the psychedelic era; it sounds as mysterious and spooky in the 21st century as it did in 1968. It is the album where Mac Rebennack established a stage identity that has served him well. A respected studio ace in his native New Orleans, Rebennack was scuffling in L.A. Gris-Gris was his concept, an album that wove various threads of New Orleans music together behind the character of "Dr. John," a real voodoo root doctor from the 19th century. Harold Batiste, another ex-pat New Orleanian and respected arranger in Hollywood, scored him some free studio time left over from a Sonny & Cher session. They assembled a crack band of NOLA exiles and session players including saxophonist Plas Johnson, singers Jessie Hill and Shirley Goodman, and guitarist/mandolinist Richard "Didimus" Washington. Almost everyone played percussion. Gris-Gris sounds like a post-midnight ceremony recorded in the bayou swamp instead of L.A.'s Gold Star Studio where Phil Spector cut hits. The atmosphere is thick, smoky, serpentine, foreboding. Rebennack inhabits his character fully, delivering Creole French and slang English effortlessly in the grain of his half-spoken, half-sung voice. He is high priest and trickster, capable of blessing, cursing, and conning. On the opening incantation "Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya Ya," Dr. John introduces himself as the "night tripper" and boasts of his medicinal abilities accompanied by wafting reverbed mandolins, hand drums, a bubbling bassline, blues harmonica, skeletal electric guitar, and a swaying backing chorus that blurs the line between gospel and soul. On "Danse Kalinda Boom," a calliope-sounding organ, Middle Eastern flute, Spanish-tinged guitars, bells, claves, congas, and drums fuel a wordless chorus in four-part chant harmony as a drum orgy evokes ceremonial rites. The sound of NOLA R&B comes to the fore in the killer soul groove of the breezy "Mama Roux." "Croker Courtboullion" is an exercise in vanguard jazz. Spectral voices, electric guitars, animal cries, flute, and moody saxophone solos and percussion drift in and out of the spacy mix. The set's masterpiece is saved for last, the nearly nearly eight-minute trance vamp in "I Walk on Gilded Splinters" (covered by everyone from Humble Pie, Cher, and Johnny Jenkins to Paul Weller and Papa Mali). Dr. John is brazen about the power of his spells in a slippery, evil-sounding boast. Congas, tom-toms, snaky guitar, and harmonica underscore his juju, while a backing chorus affirms his power like mambo priestesses in unison. A ghostly baritone saxophone wafts through the turnarounds. Droning blues, steamy funk, and loopy R&B are inseparably entwined in its groove. Remarkably, though rightfully considered a psychedelic masterpiece, there is little rock music on Gris-Gris. Its real achievement -- besides being a classic collection of startlingly deep tunes -- is that it brought New Orleans' cultural iconographies and musical traits to the attention of an emergent rock audience.

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Fri May 28 2021
4

This is exactly why I started this challenge. I have never heard Dr John before and I absolutely loved it! It is so cool and interesting.

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Fri Mar 26 2021
4

Parents in 1968 must have been freaked the fuck out when they heard this coming from their child's bedroom. It's crazy how music changed in ten years between 58 and 68. Ten years ago for us it was like, Bon Iver S/T and Arcade Fire The Suburbs.

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Fri Feb 11 2022
1

I had to google the author of 1001 to establish his age. There is a disproportionate amount of content from '67 '68 '69. I was wondering if he was 18 around then. Some of it was a golden age but this type of album does not compare with other eras. Maybe it was the drugs. Cover art 2/5

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Mon Feb 14 2022
5

One of the most unique albums I’ve heard in my time. A masterpiece of spooky, weird, and downright catchy stuff. I loved this.

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Sun Dec 19 2021
4

A very bizarre album. Not at all what I expected. The arrangements are generally spare and unusual with a lot ambience and echo and strange noises that seem to come out of nowhere. The backing vocals on the opener Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya Ya are angelic and distant really gorgeous. There are lots of different styles here most of which I can't identify. My first run through the album I was ready to give it a low rating...but my second spin is giving a much more positive perspective. I can't quite say that I live every song but man each song has something at least interesting to offer and deserves closer inspection. 4 🌟

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Fri Sep 03 2021
4

I wasn't crazy about this the first time through, but because it's so short I gave it another listen, and I liked it significantly more the second time. It's fun and weird and sounds like something Dewey Cox would have made.

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Fri Oct 29 2021
4

Spooky and atmospheric. Accomplished musicianship and swamp animal sounds. Such cray cray.

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Fri Jan 14 2022
4

At first I was thinking "Who is this ripping off Tom Waits?" then I see it was released in 1968. Wow. Ok not surprising he is an influence on Waits. As a Waits fan this is fascinating. I like Gris-Gris and Mama Roux but the vocals on Croker Courtbullion are super annoying. Definitely hear some Zappa-esque things here as well. I don't know if I'd wanna listen to a lot of this again but, damn I gotta give it a 4 just for the respect of this being 1968.

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Sun Apr 17 2022
4

For when you drop acid and suddenly crave Cajun food. Essential listening if your favorite Manning is Archie and your child is named after Bobby Hebert. It's your favorite album if you still harbor resentment towards HBO for canceling Treme, and you completely understand why the Katrina victims refused to move.

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Sun Dec 12 2021
1

I can see how if you were listening to this album, it would be very difficult to leave your car. Because it would be a difficult decision to unbuckle your seat belt to get out of a car plunging off a cliff. What in the world! To be fair, Mama Roux was interesting, but I can't listen to this ever again.

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Thu Aug 12 2021
4

Love the fusion of genres and the "space" between the instruments that that works most of the time. Some of the songs were definitely a little too "out there" for my liking. All in all a cool & different album

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Fri Oct 15 2021
4

Love this. Putting instrumentals so low-key that they appear as soundtrack next to something like "Jump Sturdy" is obviously weird, but in this case it's New Orleans weird. I expected something more uptempo when I saw the genre and length, but the way it is feels right.

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Wed Nov 17 2021
4

Unexpectedly amazing. I had wrongly written off Dr John as some proggy old blues appropriator. An amazing blend of Cajun, blues and psych rock here. I and hear how he has influenced the sound of many bands that followed. The layering of some of the tracks is like nothing I have heard from that era Now to explore some of his other albums

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Sun Dec 12 2021
4

There was a guru who calls himself Dr. John, because he has a so-called "spiritual kinship" with a spiritual healer named Dr. John Montaine. That's probably where he got his treasured amulet that he call a "gris gris". Something about New Orleans voodoo. The mysterious man offered some stories about some native communities in New Orleans. Curious, I sat and chewed the stories. I'm not sure and I don't remember if we used some psychedelics, but we probably did. It IS psychedelic. But those nighttime stories - the trippiest ones - bore me. I prefer the festive daytime rituals. I love the vivid and lively imagery of it, especially the stories and songs for Mama Roux - the queen of little red, white, and blue, and Jump Sturdy - who come out of the swamps like a lazy fool. I felt like I was in that little community, happily chanting with them. It felt like a non-horror version of "Midsommar", it's trippy, exotic, and tribal. I'll definitely come back to his stories, but if I do, I'll probably skip the slow, lengthy trippy ones.

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Wed Jan 12 2022
4

I was ready to love this but it’s all a bit messy and weird. Cool to read that he ran away from the law in New Orleans, bringing those swampy influences with him but not as funky as I was expecting.

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Fri Jan 14 2022
4

I dig Dr John's unique brand of psychedelic funk. There's nothing quite like it and it's timeless. At some points it genuinely feels like it's part of a voodoo ritual, other times it's all mellow feel good vibes. Either way it's always dripping with soul.

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Thu Dec 14 2023
3

In Philadelphia, they call him Dr. Jawn.

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Thu Dec 14 2023
3

No. 66/1001 Gris Gris Gumbo Ya ya 3/5 Danse Kalinda Ba Doom 3/5 Mama Roux 4/5 Danse Fambeaux 3/5 Croker Courtbullion 2/5 Jump Sturdy 3/5 I Walk On Guilded Splinters 4/5 Average: 3,14 Sometimes a little weird, but overall cool record

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Thu Jun 17 2021
5

Incredible. Fun in every way.

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Fri Jan 29 2021
5

this was really cool and unexpected

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Wed Jul 28 2021
5

I have some qualms about the Dr John phenomena from a cultural standpoint but this is such a testament to his talent, taste, and personality

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Thu Oct 07 2021
5

What an absolutely fantastic album.

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Thu Dec 23 2021
5

A really cool hidden gem! I had never heard of Dr. John, but this is some awesome New Orleans jazz meets psychedelic nightmare fuel

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Thu Feb 03 2022
5

I find this album to be unique, magical and local to Nola flair. Loved it.

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Mon Feb 14 2022
5

Not a single standout song, just an entire standout album, nothing so far has sounded as groovy and gritty as this.

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Mon Apr 25 2022
5

So this was a very interesting mellow and swampy and fun album. Great rhythms hinting at the Caribbean grooves with a very much Creole setting. There’s a hint of a future Tom Waits in here - I loved this. And it was short enough to keep you wanting more

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Fri May 20 2022
5

Fantastic stuff as always from The Dr.

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Fri Jun 03 2022
5

Ge mig mer av The Night Trippers sizzling Gris-Gris! Wow! Detta var annorlunda. Mörkt, psykedeliskt, träskigt, långsamt funkigt. Jävlar vad jag gillar det. Dr. John har ett tydligt New Orleans-sound, voodoo-influerad swamp-blues. Liknar Tom Waits Rain Dogs (eller Rain Dogs som liknar Gris-Gris, såklart). I de mörkare låtarna sitter du vid en lägereld i en fuktig bayou i Louisiana. Det är mitt i natten, det regnar, du har hamnat mitt i en voodoo-ritual och vet inte riktigt om du är i fara eller inte. Allt du har att luta dig mot är shamanen Dr. Johns raspiga stämma mässandes Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya Ya. Albumet är perfekt komponerat, lagom kort. Mitt i det skräckinjagande mörkret finns en välkomnande lättsam andningspaus i mitten med Mama Roux, och till en viss del Danse Fambeaux. Bäst är I Walk on Guilded Splinters, med det finns inte en enda svag låt. Om jag skulle tvingas ta ut min top-5 från detta albumet (på 7 låtar) så skulle nog Danse Kalinda Ba Doom och Croker Courtbullion ryka. Ett album som griper tag i en och inte går att sluta lyssna på. Jag kommer hålla hårt i denna talisman. Bästa låt: I Walk on Guilded Splinters.

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Fri Jun 10 2022
5

Such wonderful, swampy, sticky sounds. I can definitely see the influence on future artist like Tom Waits! Can’t wait to give it another listen and explore more Dr John.

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Sun Jul 24 2022
5

super cool surprised I haven't heard it

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Sun Jul 31 2022
5

Dr. John's first album is a feast of New Orleans rock and psychedelia. He leans into his namesake's legend as a voodoo doctor to create a persona that is mesmerizing and menacing. The music itself is slow burning, and simmers like a pot of gumbo to develop and deliver something that sits at a musical crossroads and dares you to classify it. Dr. John found himself in legal trouble and fled to Los Angeles from New Orleans. Apparently, his storied hometown followed him there because he put together a group of New Orleans session musicians and took on the Dr. John moniker. I'm a big fan of New Orleans music and lore and this album manages to weave it all together without becoming yet another forgettable 60s psychedelic album.

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Thu Sep 22 2022
5

Wonderfully spooky (the cover artwork is perfect) the music is weird yet accessible. It's got an exotic New Orleans vibe through a psychedelic lense. And Dr John's snake-like vocals are the icing on a highly spiced cake. Absolutely love this, it's rare to find an album where every track is a winner, so it's easily one of my all time favourites.

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Fri Oct 28 2022
5

Can swamp groove be considered a genre? There is some blues, some funk, some R&B, but swamp groove seems a better description to me. It is also music that doesn't seem it can be from anywhere other than New Orleans. If one is a fan (I am), this is where it all began. Dr. John as a persona may simply be a creation by Mac Rebennack, but it is fully formed here. Great saxophone work by Plas Johnson. Wonderful throughout.

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Mon Nov 07 2022
5

I had not heard this one before, but I came to it completely prepared to dislike it because it's late 60s psychedelic and I thought my hippy parents kinda burned me out on this whole genre (although I adore Jimi, Janice and any number of hippy era artists so this is probably one of those dumb prejudices that has no basis in reality). Indeed, I loved this album! So much that I'm giving an album I had never heard until yesterday FIVE STARS. That's serious stuff. This album is hard to put words to, but it's a richly layered Cajun/zydeco cacophony. Extremely well produced, super fun songs, amazing musicianship. I listened to it twice and want to listen to it again right now.

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Fri Dec 16 2022
5

I have a real appreciation for Dr. John and how he incorporates the music and traditions of Acadiana. He's steeped in it.

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Thu Mar 30 2023
5

fantastic atmospheric brew of psychedelia, cajun, blues, soul and n'awlins voodoo. Dr John really finds his voice with this album, which is chock full of funky, bluesy tunes. Walk on Gilded Splinters, Mama Roux and Jump Sturdy are all classic numbers. As well as brilliant musicianship, the backing singers really add a lot of personality to the songs

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Fri Apr 28 2023
5

Absolutely terrifyingly good album. Dr John sets the tone, does what he needs and leaves without prolonging it Can't wait to trip to this

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Mon May 01 2023
5

Swampy goodness. Doesn't really sound like anything else you might come across, which is a huge accolade in my book! Fave track - "I Walk on Guilded Splinters" has been one of my fave tracks by anyone for years! The "get it burn it" refrain echoing away always gives me chills.... 🧟

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Mon May 01 2023
5

As soon as Dr John's voice kicked in I knew I'd heard it somewhere before and remember that I Walk on Guilded Splinters was on a Back to Mine album by Lamb from 2004. Not realising that I Walk on Guilded Splinters was on this album I was thinking my favourite track was Jump Sturdy. On my second listen I got into the other tracks a lot more but I Walk on Guilded Splinters is still a stand out for me. Oh, and I always thought the lyric was "'til Alberta" :)

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Mon Jun 19 2023
5

Love this album. One of the best

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Fri Jun 30 2023
5

Never heard of this before, wanted to listen to it again straight after. Walk on gilded splinters was a shock!

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Tue Jul 18 2023
5

The first song sounded like Tom Waits during his mid-80s Frank's wild years phase. I was happy that Tom listed Dr. J as an influence. the doctor is a fascinating character, playing traditional R&B as a session musician for a decade, then unleashing this voodoo psychedelia as a debut. It's a dark, swampy album that you know isn't going to be bought by too many. I especially love the sloppy background vocalists.

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Mon Aug 14 2023
5

Gris-Gris Gumbo is an astonishing opening track for your debut album. It sets out the calling card for who you are and what's to come for the next three decades. Quite a statement. Then the samba hits you. The good Dr doesn't stand still. Latin rhythms, African chanting, plus so much more that I couldn't keep up with on the first listen.

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Wed Aug 16 2023
5

This album does not sound how it looks. I was expecting exuberant psychedelic rock, I got the most amazing laid-back rhythm and blues. What a pleasant surprise and a great start to a shitty Tuesday.

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Fri Oct 20 2023
5

Awesome. Loved this one a long time. The vibe is perfect.

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Thu Dec 07 2023
5

brb, moving to the bayou with Dr. John

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Thu Dec 07 2023
5

I wanna be friends with Dr. John, The Night Tripper Favorite song: Mama Roux

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Tue Dec 12 2023
5

4.6 - Constantly off-kilter, and completely unlike anything else. Others have described this bizarre masterpiece better than I ever could. I especially like the description of the organs on “Mama Roux”: “….sounds more like steam powered organ played at a lizard funeral rather than conventional reeds."

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Fri Jan 05 2024
5

well I guess I just found a new favorite musician - 10/10

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Mon Jan 08 2024
5

People think they jive me, Know they must be crazy. I don't see their misfortune, Guess I'm just too lazy. Ju suie le grand zomb' baby, My yellow belt of choison. Ain't afraid of a she-rat, Fill my brains with, fill up my brains with poison. Walk through the fire, children And you fly through the smoke, oh yeah. . Sssee my enemy on the end of a On the end, on a rope. Gris-gris on your doorstep, And soon you'll be in the gutter, children Melt melt your heart like butter now, I can make you, o-o-oh, I can make you ssstutter (Kon)... Kon killy, killy kon kon Walk on guilded splinters. This is some crazy good out there shit. 5/5

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Wed Jan 24 2024
5

My only complaint about this album is that it’s way too short.

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Sun Feb 04 2024
5

An amazing record. He stood on the shoulders of giants, true, but was a remarkable, unique man. The word unique is used too much, but it's the only correct major descriptor for Dr. John. May he rest in funky, multicultural peace.

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Thu Feb 08 2024
5

Interesting blend of musical styles.

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Thu Feb 15 2024
5

This is fucking awesome bayou witch music. the kind of chaos that sooth the adhd riddled brain

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Wed Mar 24 2021
4

3/23 Wild, funky, swampy. Deep in the Bayou. Standout Tracks: Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya Ya, Danse Kalinda Ba Doom, Croker Courtbullion, I Walk on Guilded Splinters

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Mon Apr 05 2021
4

While not the best album that normally would be a 3, the whole character and music fit together perfectly and sold the album. Very creative and unique

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Fri Mar 26 2021
4

Insert Bart high on pure syrup squishy gif. This album rules.

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Mon Jan 25 2021
4

A classic if you grew up in SoCal in the 70s/80s.

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Fri Mar 26 2021
4

Love some New Orleans Dr. John. Wasn't his best but still enjoyed it thoroughly.

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Wed Mar 17 2021
4

A pleasant surprise. Really enjoyed it

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Mon Apr 26 2021
4

Pretty psychedelic 70s era funk with a touch of the Louisiana sound. Very cool album. Sets a mood/tone. Not sure how often I would listen recurring.

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Thu Jul 29 2021
4

Exotisch! Darf man sagen, als Vollwestfale, oder? Ich find das ziemlich geil - gleite gerade noch durch "Walk on Guilded Splinters". Zum Glück nur auf Platte, in echt würde mich das viel zu stark ängstigen alles. Super schwül, irre Blicke, jede Menge mir unbekannte Drogen am Start, Magick und Voodoo - weiß man denn, ob's nicht doch wirkt?! Musikalisch zwar nicht immer voll mein Ding, aber für den Headtrip ziemlich perfekt. Machen wir 3,6 draus!

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Thu Jul 29 2021
4

Schönes Kleinod. Sleazy Beatnik Voodoo flambiert in karribischem Rum und von Devandra Banhart mit gegrillten Hühnerherzen serviert; im Hintergrund checkt schon Gonjasufi ab, was sich hier an Kupfer abstauben lassen könnte. Den Doktor würde ich wohl nur in bestimmten Zuständen ertragen können, mich dann aber erwartungsfroh zitternd in seine behandelnden Hände begeben. Mr. Bungle gibt zuckende 3.8

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Thu Sep 09 2021
4

Questo album c'ha un grosso problema che è forse più evidente in assoluto nella prima traccia e quindi è pure un po' un trauma: l'uso a cazzo di cane del pan. Devo dire che nel '60 ogni tanto c'erano questi guizzi creativi nell'uso del pan che sarebbe stato meglio non concretizzare, ma qua sembra che l'ingegnere che ha fatto il misaggio è cascato sui fader del pan mettendoli a caso e poi ha lasciato così. Detto questo, che me lo dovevo togliere, a me sto album m'ha stregato (ah ah ah ah! ;). Cioè come fai a non innamorarti di questa unione di musica tribale, blues e voodoo? Pezzi preferiti "Danse Kalinda Ba Doom" e "Jump Sturdy" ma in generale tutti mi hanno colpito per originalità e personalità e i versi di animali in "I Walk on Guilded Splinters" sono, come Kate Bush sa bene, il modo più veloce per conquistarmi. Direi che forse è un po' meno di 4, tipo un 3.75, però dopo Robbie Williams me sembra il minimo dare 4 al buon Dr. John.

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Fri Sep 17 2021
4

You can tell so easily that this is a New Orleans album, which I think is really cool. However, I didn't love it much past that sort of atmospheric novelty. 7/10

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Fri Sep 17 2021
4

7/10. Some cool sounds, but nothing to drive me wild.

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Wed Oct 06 2021
4

I can see why it would be an important album at the time of its release, even if it's not my cup of tea today

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Thu Oct 14 2021
4

cool shit. never listened to this before. last track is a jam

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Thu Oct 14 2021
4

Started rough but once it clicked I was on board to the end.

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Wed Nov 24 2021
4

Mjög áhugavert! Swamp Rock - blanda af psychadelic og N'awlins rhythm & blues. Geggjuð plata.

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Wed Dec 22 2021
4

A light four, enjoyable stuff. 'Swamp rock' describes it pretty well, but there seem to be several genres influencing this

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Thu Dec 23 2021
4

great album. just totally imbued with the sound of voodoo and the swamps. love zydeco and this is way at the top for me.

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Thu Dec 23 2021
4

Really funky album! I had no idea this was the sound of old Dr. John. Enjoyed a lot. 4/5

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Fri Dec 24 2021
4

4/5. Entertaining, and unique especially for ‘68. Dr. John reminds me of Tom Waits

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Fri Jan 14 2022
4

A while back I spent a lot of time trying to get a copy of this on vinyl because I had heard it was a great album. I finally got it and really enjoyed it, though something about it feels disjointed or incomplete. I really like the seedy mysticism that Dr John does so well here. Really feels different than much of the popular music of its day.

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Thu Jan 20 2022
4

Very novel sounds! Would be a 3 but it was just so damn interesting

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Thu Jan 20 2022
4

It’s fun and mesmerizing. First half was stronger than second half. Track 2 is soo good.

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Wed Feb 09 2022
4

Well that was a religious experience. It's extremely weird, but I think that's part of the charm. I like the strange chanting in "Danse Kalinda Ba Doom" and "Croker Courtbullion". Very pleasantly surprised. The first song was confusing and I wasn't sure where the album was going, but I got it after the second song and thoroughly enjoyed the rest.

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Wed Feb 16 2022
4

Interesting stuff, not something I would have ever listened to outside of this.

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Fri Feb 18 2022
4

Very very interesting. As a listener, I couldn't always predict what was coming next, but it always made sense. 3.5, but close enough to a 4.

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Sat Feb 19 2022
4

You've got to love the late 60s. A wacky, brilliant little treasure like this could never get made today. This is really a singular kind of album from a singular artist. It's got a laid back and chill style of delivery but with a totally trippy and spooky psychedelic vibe. It's fascinating. Fave Songs: I Walk on Guilded Splinters, Mama Roux, Danse Kalinda Ba Doom, Jump Sturdy

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Thu Mar 17 2022
4

One crazy spicy gumbo. Love it.

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Fri Mar 25 2022
4

What an interesting combination of genres. An enjoyable listen that surprised me a couple times

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Thu Mar 31 2022
4

Dr. John on jäänyt mun kohdalla aina kuuntelematta. Nyt on tämäkin korjattu. Hyvää psykedeliaa ja ihme vaihtoehtobluesii. Tätä varmaan kannattais oikeesti kuunnella sienissä. Pysyy musta loppuun asti kiinnostavana musana jossa on lainattu paljon vanhaa, mutta on samalla myös luotu aika paljon uutta. En oo ehkä niin suuri psykerockdiggari että tää nousis kärkikahinoihin omien levyjen suhteen, mutta kyllä tää neljän pongon arvoinen on. Hieno. Täytyy tutustua artistin muihinkin levyihin. 4/5

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Mon Apr 04 2022
4

That was quite entertaining, not as weird as I thought.

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Wed Apr 20 2022
4

Funk, soul, and jazz all combined to make the Mardi Gras sound. Dr. John's first album is a fun trek down the Mardi Gras wormhole, this is such a great album. 4/5.

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