Music

Dr. John: Hoodoo - The Collection

Chuck Hicks

Dr. John

Hoodoo - the Collection

Label: Music Club
US Release Date: 2000-07-25
Amazon
iTunes

This reviewer can distinctly remember the static-laden, AM radio groove of Dr. John's "Right Place, Wrong Time" back in 1973. This song was a clinic in chic R&B production, from its synthesized opening keys to the thumping bass line and compressed horns. Sonically it was well ahead of its time. And the title was woefully prophetic of the career of its creator. Mac Rebennack, aka Dr. John Creaux, has been engaged in the music business for over four of his six decades, but he has never quite been in the right place to reap widespread popularity.

Part of the fault lies with Dr. John himself. The flamboyant persona he invented has kept him from being taken very seriously by blues and R&B purists. In the early days he often mounted the stage in Mardi Gras regalia, directing on-stage antics that contradicted the pathos of his music. On an edition of Don Kirshner's Rock Concert (taped sometime in the early '70s) Dr. John literally coughed and choked his way through a performance that could have been used to raise awareness about the dangers of smoking. And despite his reputation as a seasoned musician -- especially as a pianist -- Dr. John's albums have been occasionally marred by a certain degree of stylistic inconsistency. Though fundamentally the purveyor of New Orleans "voodoo" blues, he was prone to venture into West Coast psyche-funk. It was gumbo with the chicken bones and innerds included. Such is the case with this particular collection.

The first seven tracks of Hoodoo are thoroughly entertaining, opening with the poignant "The Time Had Come." Immediately we are introduced to that distinctive voice that would have been right at home with Charley Patton in the late '20s. Dr. John's vocal style is comparable to that of Gregg Allman, only grittier and yet more winsome. "Shining As Hard As I Can" displays the artist's wit, as he converses with the Lord about his effort to "rise and shine," though the smog won't let him. He sings, "don't won't to see people coughin' to their coffin," an ironic twist given the acute upper respiratory episode noted above. The gospel-based "A Little Closer To Home" is this album's best cut, with its affirmation that this earth is not a place fit to be called home. And "Make Your Own" ends with a brilliantly nervous piano flourish reminiscent of Skip James.

But then we are invited to the party at least a half dozen times on "Bring Your Own Along," a droning blues mantra a la Grateful Dead that goes nowhere real fast. At the end of the track Dr. John exhorts his harmonica player, but the mix is so muddy we can't hear the hapless instrument until the fade out. "Somebody Tryin' to Hoodoo Me" nearly salvages the latter half of the album, featuring signature spooky, minor register work. Alas, the rest of the disc is a rehash of somewhat cliche conventions, and Dr. John's voice becomes scratchier. In addition, the overall sound quality of this collection leaves something to be desired.

At his best, Dr. John is a New Orleans stylist with a voice that, in another time, could have set juke joints ablaze. However, while Hoodoo is full of roux it's short on mojo, so this collection is a toss up. His most ardent fans will probably enjoy this, but others would do better to acquire earlier LPs such as Gris-Gris (1968) and In the Right Place (1973).

Music


Books


Film


Recent
Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Street Art As Sprayed Solidarity: Global Corona Graffiti

COVID-19-related street art functions as a vehicle for political critique and social engagement. It offers a form of global solidarity in a time of crisis.

Music

Gretchen Peters Honors Mickey Newbury With "The Sailor" and New Album (premiere + interview)

Gretchen Peters' latest album, The Night You Wrote That Song: The Songs of Mickey Newbury, celebrates one of American songwriting's most underappreciated artists. Hear Peters' new single "The Sailor" as she talks about her latest project.

Music

Okkyung Lee Goes From Classical to Noise on the Stellar 'Yeo-Neun'

Cellist Okkyung Lee walks a fine line between classical and noise on the splendid, minimalist excursion Yeo-Neun.

Film

Alastair Sim: A Very English Character Actor Genius

Alastair Sim belongs to those character actors sometimes accused of "hamming it up" because they work at such a high level of internal and external technique that they can't help standing out.

Music

Joe Hertler & the Rainbow Seekers Head "Underwater" in New Video (premiere)

Celebrating the first anniversary of Paper Castle, folksy poppers Joe Hertler & the Rainbow Seekers release an uplifting new video for opening track, "Underwater".

Music

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith's New LP Is Lacking in Songcraft but Rich in Texture

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith's The Mosaic of Transformation is a slightly uneven listen. It generally transcends the tropes of its genre, but occasionally substitutes substance for style.

Music

Buzzcocks' 1996 Album 'All Set' Sees the Veteran Band Stretching Out and Gaining Confidence

After the straightforward and workmanlike Trade Test Transmissions, Buzzcocks continued to hone their fresh identity in the studio, as exhibited on the All Set reissue contained on the new box-set Sell You Everything.

Books

Patrick Madden's 'Disparates' Makes Sense in These Crazy Times

There's no social distancing with Patrick Madden's hilarious Disparates. While reading these essays, you'll feel like he's in the room with you.

Music

Perfume Genius Purges Himself and It's Contagious

You need to care so much about your art to pack this much meaning into not only the words, but the tones that adorn and deliver them. Perfume Genius cares so much it hurts on Set My Heart on Fire Immediately.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Confinement and Escape: Emma Donoghue and E.L. Doctorow in Our Time of Self-Isolation

Emma Donoghue's Room and E.L. Doctorow's Homer & Langley define and confront life within limited space.

Books

Political Cartoonist Art Young Was an Aficionado of all Things Infernal

Fantagraphics' new edition of Inferno takes Art Young's original Depression-era critique to the Trump White House -- and then drags it all to Hell.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.