Dr. John - Anutha Zone
3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Story by Tony Bonyata"I don't wanna know about evil" sings Dr. John on his latest album, Anutha Zone. But it's hard to believe that this magical mystery musician from New Orleans doesn't already know just about everything there is about the dark side. From voodoo queens, gris-gris potions to hellfire funereal processions, Dr. John (aka Mac Rebennack) has done his share of dancing with Mr. D.
Dr. John's musical history can be traced back to the roots of early rock and R&B.
He began playing piano in 1947 at the age of six, and by the time he was fourteen he not only had his first recording session but also landed a job with Ace Records as their A & R man, quite an accomplishment for an early teen. In the mid-fifties, an A & R man's responsibilities included finding an artist, writing material, hiring musicians and mastering the records, all for $60 a week. These early sessions introduced young Rebennack to a wealth of musical greats such as Shirley and Lee, Joe Tex and his personal mentor, piano extraordinaire Professor Longhair.
During the sixties he worked with the likes of Frank Zappa, Phil Spector and Sonny and Cher before cutting his first album, Gris-Gris, under the alter ego of "The Night Tripper". It was this album that conjured up the smoky spirits of New Orleans voodoo past and mixed in a good of portion of psychedelic-laced rock. It wasn't until the good doctor released his breakthrough album Gumbo in 1972 that he began to shape his sound for the next three decades. On this album he brought the backstreets of New Orleans to the American public with brilliant reworkings of standards such as "Iko Iko", "Big Chief", "Junko Partner" and "Little Liza Jane". Working alongside the talents of The Rolling Stones, Allan Toussaint, Van Morrison and Bob Dylan throughout the seventies helped him gain even more recognition, not to mention having a top ten hit of his own, "Right Place, Wrong Time" from his Sun, Moon and Herbs album.
Since that time Dr. John has recorded countless albums, including a couple which have won Grammys (Sentimental Mood and Goin' Back To New Orleans, a spicy tribute to his musical and spiritual roots), as well as writing jingles for commercials and extensive touring.
Now returning in high spirits, Dr. John has released an interesting album, entitled Anutha Zone, filled with elements which touches on all aspects from his career. From the mystical funk of "Ki Ya Gris Gris" and "I Like Ki Yoka" to the rousing R&B of the title track, "Anutha Zone", "Sweet Home New Orleans" and "Party Hellfire", complete with a gospelly, Stones feeling, this is one doctor who makes house calls, as he brings it on home, musically speaking.
Although known for his funky, Professor Longhair-influenced, boogie-styled piano, Dr. John instead lets his keys take a back seat to the earthy arrangements and cosmic, psychedelic spicings from the welcome additions of newer British bands, Supergrass, Spiritualized, Portishead, Primal Scream, as well as Paul Weller.
By adding the new blood of these British bands into his own musical voodoo cauldron, Dr. John stirs up a devilishly delicious concoction that'll take you to anutha zone.
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