|July 31, 2010 | Found Sounds, New Orleans Music, You Could Download
.. and it was recorded in 1967 on borrowed studio time in Los Angeles by a crew of eccentric, heroin-addicted, paranoid New Orleanians led by Malcolm John ‘Mac’ Rebennack, Jr., who was on the run from the cops, sleeping on floors, and, for the first time, playing the character of mystic /shaman /voodoo priest Dr.John.
Gris-Gris is one of the most psychedelic records I’ve ever heard, but not in a rock n’ roll fuzz-wah-wah-acid sort of way. Dr.John conjures up a timeless, dark, magic place – literally, this sounds like it could have been recorded in a swamp to an audience of frogs, blinking in the moonlight. You can download the tracks here, which are taken from my original vinyl copy. Note : if you’re a windows user and are having problems opening files from this site, try 7-Zip.
Here’s more, from Rebennack’s excellent autobiography Dr.John : Under A Hoodoo Moon :
” In 1967, after a couple of years of studio and other kinds of sidetripping in L.A., me and my New Orleans partners-in-exile finally fell into a situation where we could cut an LP on an idea I’d had since before I left New Orleans. I had always thought we could work up an interesting New Orleans-based concept behind the persona of the legendary conjureman Dr.John. This would not only allow for a dash of gris-gris in the lyrics but would also let us musicians get into a stretched-out New Orleans groove. With the help of Harold Battiste, we recorded at Gold Star Studios between sessions Sonny & Cher were doing there for Atlantic Records. The album we created, Gris-Gris, was heavy on rhythm, percussion, and guitar, and light on keyboards. I did play some organ, as on songs Mama Roux and Danse Kalinda, but stuck mostly to guitar. Steve Mann and Ernest McLean also played guitar on the session. On some songs we used two basses ( Harold Battiste and Bob West ), and our percussionist, Didimus, also doubled up on a bunch more instruments with the rest of the cats.
We were looking for an unusual, textured sound, and the cats nailed it. Naturally, we wanted the album to sell, but we weren’t into bending our music to fit somebody’s idea of what the market was about. First and foremost, we were into it for the music. This attitude isn’t often appreciated by record companies. To give you a for instance, at one point later on, I was doing a session for Bobby Darin when Ahmet Ertegun walked into the studio looking for me. ‘ Why did you give me this shit? How can we market this boogaloo crap? ‘ He was stuck with a record that was done on the sly, and he was acting as if he wouldn’t release it.
But we was of the mind that a hip record might sell if it was pitched the right way. The way we was looking at music was that it was circular in its groove, with no corners. That was what the old-time hipsters had meant by hip — something that hadn’t been squared off to fit into some kind of computerized, market-ized nightmare. In any event, Ahmet must have sensed something happening. We made five more albums for Atlantic before the deal fell through. Our theme song of that time, the first cut on the album, was Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya-Ya. It framed a mental picture of an imaginary New Orleans, and put our main character, Dr.John, out front and center. “