Dr. John’s “Gris-Gris” Presents Voodoo Psychedelia To The Masses

Put Gris-Gris On Your Doorstep Soon You’ll Be In The Gutter

For such an innovative debut album in 1968, Dr. John‘s Gris-Gris surprisingly flew under the radar. In fact, it really wasn’t until the past decade that the record has finally gained more mainstream popularity.

Just like the lore that sorrounds New Orleans itself, Gris-Gris is fused with voodoo, bayous, and a touch of psychedelia to create a mystical and at times frightening landscape. Every track brings a somewhat dangerous edge to it where you really never know if you’ll venture into the middle of trouble.

The opener “Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya Ya” is a partly spoken word track that acts like a tour guide on this trippy adventure. With a very sparse arrangement that creates an overwhelmingly haunting atmosphere, Dr. John tells you what he’s all about and how to help you with any ills or misfortunes you might find yourself in.

The powerful feeling of a bayou expedition continues with “Danse Kalinda Ba Doom“. With the frightening chants of a spiritual event, the clanging of drums, and swampy percussion, this instrumental is a definite stand out track that could be part of a beautiful soundtrack.

Other stand out numbers on this album are the jump rope rhymes of “Mama Roux“, the demented DJ’ing of “Danse Fambeaux“, and the 7 minute epic “I Walk On Guilded Splinters“. Really, the weakest moment of the album only rests on one track, “Croker Courtbullion“. It still does a great job at creating a tense soundscape, but clocking in at 5 minutes, the track almost seems to drag on at points.

With such an intense and game changing record, how did musical audiences of the 60’s miss such a classic? Well, like with the fate of other musical masterpieces of the day, it comes down to the record label. Atlantic Records president Ahmet Ertegun really didn’t know what to make of it. In response, the record was released on their subsidiary label Atco Records and soon fell into unfortunate obscurity. Luckily, the record had an underground life and the success of future records by Dr. John, Gris-Gris was rediscovered by a new fan base that continues to pass on this legendary record.

Check out the full album below and don’t be afraid to let yourself slip into the swamp waters…

Author: Nick

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