Mac Rebennack earned his stripes as a teenager in the late 1950s as a sought after session keyboard player and guitarist on the vibrant New Orleans rhythm & blues scene. But he didn’t become widely known outside of the Big Easy until a decade later when he adopted the Dr. John moniker and began playing his own brand of “voodoo” music. After more than five decades in the business, the 74-year-old Dr. John shows no signs of slowing down — as evidenced by last year’s terrific “Ske-Dat-De-Dat: The Spirit of Satch” release.
The folks at Omnivore shine a light on Dr. John’s early solo career with “The Atco/Atlantic Singles 1968-1974.” This splendid collection features the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer’s 22 A- and B-sides for the Atlantic labels during those fertile years. His signature hit “Right Place Wrong Time” was recorded during this stretch, along with standouts like “The Patriotic Flag Waver,” “Iko Iko,” “I Walk on Gilded Splinters,” “Loop Garoo,” “Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya Ya,” “Big Chief,” “I Been Hoodood,” “Let’s Make a Better World” and “Mos’ Scosious.”
“Dr. John has proven to be one of music’s foremost generalists, a primary-care cat whose practice extends back some 60 years,” musicologist Gene Sculatti explains in the album’s liner notes. “These Atco and Atlantic sides were clearly the right-place right-time recordings. They put Dr. John on the map and into the ears of music enthusiasts the world over.”
One of the real finds here is “A Man of Many Words,” featuring fellow legends Buddy Guy and Eric Clapton. This one’s a must for Dr. John’s legion of fans. (Jeffrey Sisk)