Friday, September 02, 2005

Mac Rebennack: Storm Warning (Rex 10,019)

There's going to be a lot of New Orleans tributes in the next several months due to the destruction that Hurricane Katrina has wrought. Some say the city is doomed completely and will never be the way it was again. Others say it will rise like a Phoenix and be twice as good. I, myself, have never been there, but I fall in the latter camp nonetheless. Whatever the case, New Orleans' importance as a rock 'n' roll city cannot be overstated.

With that, here's my very tiny little contribution to the many tributes to New Orleans music that are now surfacing and will no doubt continue to surface in the months ahead. I give you the first release by a man who would become known worldwide as a master N.O. pianist and a great entertainer. You all know him better as Dr. John, The Night Tripper.

On this 1959 45, he goes under his real name. As Dr. John, he would record 20 solo albums of his own and be a sideman on literally hundreds of others. He scored his only Top 40 hit in 1973 called "Right Place, Wrong Time," but that, of course, is only the tip of the iceberg. Funny thing, then, given his reputation as a piano man, that the piano is not the main instrument on this song.

Instead, a Bo Diddley-like guitar riff dominates the track while a piano wails on in the background. (NOTE: I was just informed that Mr. Rebennack was a guitarrist when he recorded this, but switched over to piano when he lost part of one of his fingers in a gunfight. SEE Comments. ) It's also got a Bo Diddley beat to it that kind of reminds you of the oncoming storm of the title. Then, a blazing sax (Alvin 'Red' Tyler, by any chance?) comes in and tears it up. The gumbo is ready and it's hot!

Whether this was a harbinger of things to come, I cannot say. (And I certainly meant no harm in picking this record in light of the storms that happened this week.) But I will tell you one thing: Once this record gets up to cooking, it cooks! And it smokes! That's what's most important of all. And Mac Rebennack was there at the beginning, cookin' right along with 'em.

May the good Lord be with the people of New Orleans and the surrounding areas this night and every night. May He watch over them and bring them peace. And may He help them rise again.

(Personal note: please hold the wisecracks on that last comment. There is more than enough suffering going on down there now and they need peace any way they can get it.)


Todd Lucas said...

I was able to find a clip of this online. Very cool.

keaneyes said...

This was recorded when Dr John was a guitar player.
He switched to piano after losing part of his finger in a gunfight!

Brian Marshall said...

Wow! Thanks a lot for that info, keaneyes! I didn't know that. I'll make corrections in the review.

keaneyes said...

You must get a copy of Dr John's book "Under A Hoodoo Moon". It got more stories about drugs, pimps and gunfights than most crime novels.

Brian Marshall said...

Is that book still in print?

keaneyes said...

I believe so.
Try Powell's Books.
They probably have it cheap.