Gris-Gris

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For the amulet, see Gris-gris (talisman). For other uses, see Gris gris (disambiguation).
Gris-Gris
Studio album by Dr. John
Released January 22, 1968
Recorded Gold Star Studios, Los Angeles, 1967
Genre New Orleans R&B, psychedelic rock
Length 33:12
Label Atco
Producer Harold Battiste
Dr. John chronology
Gris-Gris
(1968)
Babylon
(1969)

Gris-Gris is the debut album by Dr. John (Mac Rebennack). Produced by Harold Battiste, it was released on Atco Records in 1968. The musical style of Gris-Gris is a hybrid of New Orleans rhythm and blues and psychedelic rock. Despite the New Orleans style, it was recorded in California 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 #143 on 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.[1]

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.[2] Rebennack chose this name after hearing about Montaine from his sister, and feeling a "spiritual kinship" with him.[2] 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.[1][2]

Gris-Gris was recorded in 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.[1]

Release and reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 5/5 stars [3]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars [4]
Head Heritage (Positive) [5]
Head Heritage (Positive) [6]

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?".[1] Gris-Gris failed to chart in the United States and United Kingdom.[7][8] 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".[3] In 1999, Tom Moon of Rolling Stone gave the album a positive review, with a rating of four stars out of five.[4] In 2003, the album was ranked number 143 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.[9]

Track listing[edit]

Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya Ya"   Dr. John Creaux 5:36
2. "Danse Kalinda Ba Doom"   Creaux, Harold Battiste 3:39
3. "Mama Roux"   Creaux, Jessie Hill 2:59
4. "Danse Fambeaux"   Creaux 4:56
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Croker Courtbullion"   Battiste 6:00
2. "Jump Sturdy"   Creaux 2:20
3. "I Walk on Guilded Splinters"   Creaux 7:37

Personnel[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."

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Unterberger, Richie (1968). Gris-Gris (CD liner). Dr. John. Collectors' Choice Music. 131. 
  2. ^ a b c Lichtenstein 1993, p. 148
  3. ^ a b Unterberger, Richie. "Gris-Gris" at AllMusic. Retrieved 2008-05-10.
  4. ^ a b Moon, Tom (1999-10-14). "Dr. John: Gris-Gris". Rolling Stone (Straight Arrow). ISSN 0035-791X. Retrieved 2008-05-10. 
  5. ^ "Dr. John, The Night Tripper—Gris-Gris". The Book of Seth. headheritage.co.uk. Retrieved 2011-10-07. 
  6. ^ "Dr. John: Gris-Gris". Reviews. headheritage.co.uk. Retrieved 2011-10-07. 
  7. ^ Warwick 2004, p. 338
  8. ^ "Dr. John > Charts & Awards > Billboard" at AllMusic. Retrieved 2008-05-10.
  9. ^ "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone (Straight Arrow) (Special Issue). 143 | Gris-Gris - Dr. John. November 2003. ISSN 0035-791X. Retrieved 2008-05-10. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Lichtenstein, Grace; Laura Dankner (1993). Musical Gumbo: The Music of New Orleans. W.W. Norton. ISBN 0-393-03468-2. 
  • Warwick, Neil; Jon Kutner, & Tony Brown (2004). The Complete Book of the British Charts: Singles and Albums. Omnibus Press. ISBN 1-84449-058-0. 

External links[edit]