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Dr. John: The Atco/Atlantic Singles 1968-1974

Chris M. Slawecki By

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If you have a musician friend who plays in a rhythm section, or just a friend who simply loves rhythm, drop Dr. John: The Atco/Atlantic Singles 1968—1974 on them. Throughout these 22 tracks, every A-side and B-side of every Dr. John Atco/Atlantic Records single issued in the US and the UK, produced by such industry giants as Jerry Wexler and Ahmet Ertegun and New Orleans legends Harold Battiste and Allen Toussaint, this good doctor's rhythms are swirling, offbeat, and deceptively yet murderously funky.

This set opens with "The Patriotic Flag Waver," 1960s political commentary on the John Birch Society, NAACP, KKK and so on, from the perspective of a reactionary who's "One hundred percent for Uncle Sam," built upon a pastiche of children singing "My Country 'Tis of Thee" and "America the Beautiful," martial drumming, and John's almost deadpan recitation of the decade's myriad social complications. But it truly begins with the double-sided "I Walk on Gilded Splinters (Part I)" and "(Part II)," a darkly mysterious mix of percussion, bass, guitar, and chanted vocals that bounce around as if trapped inside a haunted mansion—one of John's first hits, one of the first incarnations of his famous "voodoo doctor" persona, and which, in 1968, must have sounded like it dropped in from an alternative musical universe. In "Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya-Ya," we meet "The Night Tripper" for the first time, a spooky medicine man from the swamp shrouded in dark, mysterious New Orleans music.

John dives deep into the Crescent City classics "Iko Iko" and "Big Chief," stirring them into thick musical gumbo, and joyously rumbles through his "Huey 'Piano' Smith Medley" with the sound of a broad-faced grin. "A Man of Many Words" teams him with blues guitar legends Buddy Guy and Eric Clapton, and he helps himself to the electric guitar solo in Willie Dixon's blues classic "Wang Dang Doodle."

Recorded with Toussaint and New Orleans' legendary rhythm ensemble The Meters, "Right Place Wrong Time" (from his 1973 breakout In The Right Place) shines a light on John's unique gift for merging New Orleans, funk, R&B, and rock music—and wound up breaking into the pop Top Ten.

"These Atco and Atlantic sides were clearly the right place, right time recordings," musicologist Gene Sculatti writes in this set's notes. "They put Dr. John on the map and into the ears and minds of music enthusiasts the world over."

Track Listing: The Patriotic Flag Waver; Mama Roux; Jump Sturdy; I Walk on Gilded Splinters (Part I); I Walk on Gilded Splinters (Part II); Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya-Ya; Loop Garoo; Wash Mama Wash; Iko Iko; Huey Smith Medley; Wang Dang Doodle; Big Chief; A Man of Many Words; Right Place Wrong Time; I Been Hoodood; Such a Night; Cold Cold Cold; Life; Let's Make a Better World; Me--You = Loneliness; (Everybody Wanna Get Rich) Rite Away; Mos' Scocious.

Personnel: Dr. John: piano, keyboards, guitar, vocals; Eric Clapton: guitar; Buddy Guy: guitar, vocals.

Title: The Atco/Atlantic Singles 1968-1974 | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Omnivore Recordings

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