1001 Albums: Gris-Gris

#122

Album_122_Original.jpg

Artist: Dr John

Album: Gris-Gris

Year: 1968

Length: 33:12

Genre: New Orleans RnB / Psychedelic Rock

“Walk thru the fire
Fly thru the smoke
See my enemy
At the end of dey rope

Walk on pins and needles
See what they can do
Walk on guilded splinters
King of the Zulu”

It’s been awhile, I advanced by about five more album and never got around to actually sitting and writing these posts… oops. To be fair I’ve had a lot going on in my life, from financial woes to apartment hunting, I’ve had a lot on my plate and this sort of fell to the bottom of my list of priorities.

I also turned 26 last week. Another birthday comes and goes. I’m not crazy about my own birthday, especially since I’m past the age that birthdays feel important. For the past bunch of years my birthdays haven’t been so great and I sort of accepted that this is what my birthdays have now become (and I assume anyone hitting this age feels the same way for the most part (unless you’re one of those people who has like 20 friends who throw you surprise parties and go all out, but you are seriously an exception to the rule)). I found myself looking back in my past year and got really introspective about it. I went through a lot within my 25 years old year and it was possibly my worst year I’ve ever had in my life, for many many reasons. I won’t go into any details, they aren’t important, but the way I see it, that’s life and everyone will experience that one bad year. I don’t feel hopeful (I’ve realised it’s a useless emotion) but I do feel that there will be a calm after the storm. Life has a weird way of balancing itself out, so I do feel things will turn around as the year goes by until my next birthday, which will probably be just as uneventful as always. Joy.

If you found the vibe of my last paragraph to be a bit of a downer than I’m sorry but this album would probably not be for you. This album from start to finish feels bleak and dark, but not in a sad kind of way but in a voodoo kind of way. There’s definitely some creepiness factor playing here and I find it adds so much to the music since it’s giving an already exhausted genre it’s own unique flavour. Unlike most of the psychedelic albums I’ve listened to, Dr. John approaches the genre with his own voice and style and it feels absolutely fresh. It helps that he mixed New Orleans RnB into it to give it that little flavour, but it is very much a psychedelic album as a whole and like I said, the vibe of the whole album is really what sells it for me. If you’re not into that type of grungy villain pub. deep in the woods, wrong part of town, Tom Waits type vibe, than I can see this not being for you at all.

In all fairness, I didn’t really know what to make of this album the first time I heard it (I had already heard Guilded Splinters in my famous psychedelic music class but never really cared much for it). It was only on my second listening that I really discovered how great it actually is (for what it’s trying to do). It really succeeds in giving the listener something they’ve never heard before. It’s odd in the best way possible and absurd in many ways, half of the lyrics just sound like complete gibberish, but I’m sure mean something… maybe… either way that’s besides the point because you don’t listen to this type of music to go in depth of the lyrics, you listen to it to get lost in the experience. And if you give this album a chance you definitely get lost to the vibe of the whole thing.

It should be noted that Dr. John is not a real person and is actually a persona created by the artist Malcolm Rebennack. The creation of the character was heavily influenced by a medicinal and spiritual healer who had the same name as the titular character. Heavily inspired by voodoo, Malcolm wondered what a stage show would look like from a character based off these two ideas and hence Dr. John the Night Tripper was born. I think that was a smart idea because it’s really what holds the whole album together, this persona singing and performing his way through each song. Malcolm originally wanted to find someone else to play the character, but was told by his producer just to do it himself. Good thing he did because his unique deep raspy voice is what turns the album form great to relatively iconic (He may not be well known for the average listener but people who are deep into the genre definitely know who this is (To my knowledge at least… I could be wrong)).

I really do think this album is worth a check out if you haven’t heard it before. Might not be your thing but hey! At least you tried something new and that’s pretty cool… right?

 

Song of Choice: Croker Courtbullion

-Bosco

 

 

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