Gris-Gris (stylized as GRIS-gris, /ˈɡrˌɡr/, named for a kind of talisman) is the debut album by American musician Dr. John (a.k.a. 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.[6] The style of Gris-Gris is a hybrid of New Orleans R&B and psychedelia.[7] It was recorded in California, albeit with several native New Orleans musicians.

Studio album by
ReleasedJanuary 22, 1968
StudioGold Star Studios, Los Angeles
ProducerHarold Battiste
Dr. John chronology

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.

Production edit

Before recording the album, Rebennack was an experienced New Orleans R&B and rock musician playing as a session musician, songwriter, and producer in New Orleans. Due to drug problems and the law, Rebennack moved to Los Angeles in 1965, joining a group of New Orleans session musicians. Rebennack survived by playing with various pop and rock recording sessions, receiving much of this work with the help of New Orleanian arranger Harold Battiste.[8]

Rebennack desired to make an album that combined the various strains of New Orleans music behind a front man called Dr. John, after a black man named Dr. John Montaine, who claimed to be an African potentate.[9] Rebennack chose this name after hearing about Montaine from his sister, and feeling a "spiritual kinship" with him.[9] Rebennack originally wanted New Orleans singer Ronnie Barron to front the band as the Dr. John character, but Don Costa, who managed Barron at the time, advised him against it, claiming it to be a bad career move. Rebennack took on the Dr. John stage name himself.[8][9]

Gris-Gris was recorded at Gold Star Studios in Los Angeles, California. With an album due and no singer prepared, Dr. John managed to book studio time originally reserved for Sonny & Cher.[8]

Release and reception edit

Professional ratings
Review scores
Allmusic     [6]
Rolling Stone     [10]
Head Heritage(Positive)[11]
Head Heritage(Positive)[12]

Gris-Gris was released in 1968 on Atco Records, a sub-label of Atlantic Records. Atlantic records president Ahmet Ertegun was reluctant to release the record at first, exclaiming "How can we market this boogaloo crap?"[8] Gris-Gris failed to chart in the United States and United Kingdom.[13][14] Modern reception of the album has been very positive. Richie Unterberger of Allmusic gave the album five out of five stars, referring to it as "The most exploratory and psychedelic outing of Dr. John's career".[6] In 1999, Tom Moon of Rolling Stone magazine gave the album a positive review, with a rating of four stars out of five.[10] In 2003, the album was ranked number 143 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time,[15] maintaining the rating in a 2012 revised list,[16] before ranked at number 356 on the 2020 revision.[17]

The Wire included Gris Gris in their 1998 list of "100 Records That Set the World on Fire (While No One Was Listening)". The staff wrote that the album fused inspired instrumental combinations with electronic treatments "that owed much to post-Spector LA studio trickery", resulting in music that "constantly unbalanced the ear's efforts to place the music within a continuation of music history. Plas Johnson's playing in particular sounds more like steam powered organ played at a lizard funeral rather than conventional reeds."[18] AllMusic stated that it "sounds like a post-midnight ceremony recorded in the bayou swamp," and named it "among the most enduring recordings of the psychedelic era; it sounds as mysterious and spooky in the 21st century as it did in 1968."[6]

Track listing edit

Side one
1."Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya Ya"Dr. John Creaux5:36
2."Danse Kalinda Ba Doom"Dr. John Creaux, Harold Battiste3:39
3."Mama Roux"Dr. John Creaux, Jessie Hill2:59
4."Danse Fambeaux"Dr. John Creaux4:56
Side two
1."Croker Courtbullion"Harold Battiste6:00
2."Jump Sturdy"Dr. John Creaux2:20
3."I Walk on Guilded Splinters"Dr. John Creaux7:37

Personnel edit

Musicians edit

Technical edit

From liner notes of original LP: "My group consists of Dr. Poo Pah Doo of Destine Tambourine and Dr. Ditmus of Conga, Dr. Boudreaux of Funky Knuckle Skins and Dr. Battiste of Scorpio in Bass Clef, Dr. McLean of Mandolin Comp. School, Dr. Mann of Bottleneck Learning, Dr. Bolden of The Immortal Flute Fleet, The Baron of Ronyards, Dido, China, Goncy O'Leary, Shirley Marie Laveaux, Dr. Durden, Governor Plas Johnson, Senator Bob West Bowing, Croaker Jean Freunx, Sister Stephanie and St. Theresa, John Gumbo, Cecilia La Favorite, Karla Le Jean who were all dreged up from The Rigolets by the Zombie of the Second Line. Under the eight visions of Professor Longhair reincannted the charts of now."

"I will mash my special faix deaux-deaux on all you who buy my charts, the rites of Coco Robicheaux who, invisible to all but me, will act as a second guardian angel until you over-work him. All who attend our rites will receive kites from the second tier of Tit Alberto who brought the Saute Chapeau. To Chieu Va Bruler up to us from the Antilles to the bayou St. John. Aunt Francis who told me the epic of Jump Sturdy and Apricot Glow. Mimi, who in silence, says the lyrics to Mamma Roux in Chipacka the Chopatoulis Chocktaws without teepees on Magnolia Street and wise to the Zulu parade and the golden blade the sun-up to sun-down second liners who dig Fat Tuesday more than anybody and that's plenty. I have also dug up the old Danse Kalinda to remind you we have not chopped out the old chants and the new Croaker Courtbuillion to serve Battiste style of Phyco-Delphia. We did the snake a la gris-gris calimbo to frame our thing into the medium of down under yonder fire. We walked on gilded splinters to shove my point across to you whom I will communicate with shortly through the smoke of deaux-deaux the rattlesnake whose forked tongue hisses pig Latin in silk and satin da-zaw-ig-day may the gilded splinters of Aunte Andre spew forth in your path to light and guide your way through the bayous of life on your pirougue of heartaches and good times... Push and the shove that you need to get your point across no matter what the cost."

References edit

  1. ^ Whipp, Glenn. "Harold Battiste dies at 83; influential New Orleans musician". LA Times. Retrieved 18 January 2022.
  2. ^ Point, Michael (2006). Encyclopedia of the Blues: A-J. Routledge. p. 282.
  3. ^ "Dr. John : Gros Gris (1968)". Aquarium Drunkard. 12 February 2007. Retrieved 19 December 2021.
  4. ^ Baylese, Richard (March 10, 2021). "Ten top Swamp Rock tracks". Americana UK. Retrieved 2022-09-05.
  5. ^ Gallucci, iMichael (23 February 2021). "Top 25 Psychedelic Rock Albums". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved 20 March 2023.
  6. ^ a b c d Unterberger, Richie. "Gris-Gris" at AllMusic. Retrieved 2008-05-10.
  7. ^ Matis, Griffin (September 24, 2015). "Straight from the 504". Vox. Retrieved July 24, 2016.
  8. ^ a b c d Unterberger, Richie (1968). Gris-Gris (CD liner). Dr. John. Collectors' Choice Music. 131.
  9. ^ a b c Lichtenstein & Dankner 1993, p. 148
  10. ^ a b Moon, Tom (1999-10-14). "Dr. John: Gris-Gris". Rolling Stone. Straight Arrow. ISSN 0035-791X. Retrieved 2008-05-10.
  11. ^ "Dr. John, The Night Tripper—Gris-Gris". The Book of Seth. Retrieved 2011-10-07.
  12. ^ "Dr. John: Gris-Gris". Reviews. Retrieved 2011-10-07.
  13. ^ Warwick, Kutner & Brown 2004, p. 338
  14. ^ "Dr. John > Charts & Awards > Billboard" at AllMusic. Retrieved 2008-05-10.
  15. ^ "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. No. Special Issue. Straight Arrow. November 2003. 143 | Gris-Gris - Dr. John. ISSN 0035-791X. Archived from the original on September 10, 2012. Retrieved 2008-05-10.
  16. ^ "500 Greatest Albums of All Time Rolling Stone's definitive list of the 500 greatest albums of all time". Rolling Stone. 2012. Retrieved September 18, 2019.
  17. ^ "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. 2020-09-22. Retrieved 2021-07-01.
  18. ^ "100 Records That Set the World on Fire (While No One Was Listening)". The Wire. No. 175. September 1998.

Further reading edit

External links edit