DR. JOHN: a sense of the exotic and the wild

17th November 2017

Title: The Atco Albums Collection

Label: Atco

It’s amazing that this man had been active in the music business since the late 50s but he really didn’t become generally known until the 70s. If that’s not an encouragement to struggling creative artists out there, I don’t know what is.

Formerly known as Mac Rebennack, Dr John offers a powerful presentation of blues, boogie-woogie, rock and more but always draped within a spiritual voodoo, New Orleans wrapper, which gives his music  a sense of the exotic and the wild.

In demand as a top session man in the 60s, his solo works have always attracted the talented and famous. The Sun, Moon & Herbs featured Eric Clapton and Mick Jagger, for example, while Jerry Wexler produced Gumbo.

Presented in a clamshell box, this set offers the first seven albums from the man who began his career in 1968. All seven studio albums included in the collection have been remastered for the first time and could be said to hold his best and most creatively interesting work. The set features: Gris-Gris (1968), Babylon (1969), Remedies (1970), The Sun, Moon & Herbs (1971), Dr. John’s Gumbo (1972), In The Right Place (1973), and Desitively Bonnaroo (1974).

This box set is an ideal illustration how, with a suitably sensitive sense of mastering, just how far studio-based ADCs have come in recent years. The mastering on this set is not only admirable but, in relative terms for a CD, is pretty darned quiet in terms of loudness with an airy soundstage on Gumbo. The gamut of instruments on offer, along with the backing voices take full advantage of the open soundstage on Gris Gris, providing a full and, for the much derided CD format, a richly mature presentation. It’s not completely perfect but this box set reflects the impressive CD format improvements.