Here's what I know about Dr. John.
Yup. Nothing. But, I do research, especially when he has one of the top new albums for this week. And clearly I am behind, once again. The guy's been in the industry since the 1950s, and widely known since the '70s. He's described as "a formidable boogie and blues pianist with a lovable growl of a voice." He's sort of been all over different genres, leaving his mark largely on the New Orleans scene.
The short version is that the 80's saw him do a lot of work for others and recording of standards and covers. The 90's saw him cover a lot of his own work, as well as some collaborations. He puts out a really large amount of music though (this is one of three that has 2012 has the release year listing), and maintains a really respectable following. This album is a work with The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach as a producer, guitarist, and singer.
"Locked Down"kicks things off with a very steady funk beat (that sounds so odd in my head), and a voice that I'd swear I've heard a million times, but still can't place the name. He's not a fantastic singer, but perfect for the style. The song's got a tone of being trapped by the man and looking to break free. However the background music was made (sounds largely of voices, with a little drum, keys, and bass to maintain instrumentation), it's pretty cool to hear. Lots of the song comes across as homemade and carrying through simply out of a good groove going. It's not complicated, but everything had to fall together perfectly to work that well.
The horns are appropriately in with their gritty noise for "Revolution." There's for sure a sound of the street happening. The Doctor doesn't really take prevalence with his words - the music does way more of the speaking. He because a backing himself. I'd love to know how this was recorded, because it' not exactly clean, and comes across like it was done in some little high-ceilinged living room without regard to crisp sounds. It's not often you here the band sound like they're, more-or-less, in one room, especially since multi-track recording came about. Here though, at least until the synth keys come in, everything sounds like it's on the same tracking.
"Big Shot" struck me as funny at first. I mean, is he trying to make a statement or talk about himself? Either way, the use of background vocals is entirely welcome and enjoyable. They give the right kind of ghostly tone that the production mix calls for. There's a nice grit to this album that has been consistent - usually you'll be jaunted by this in a song or two, instead of getting a decently steady sound. That, at the very least, is nice. There's this horn, and I believe, woodwind section that's giving this a whole different sound. This could be an awesome live experience, but I'd be worried to take the grit of the recorded sound away from it all.
I was working on cleaning up some of my room when "Ice Age"came on. It makes for a pretty great groove song to just bop to while you're moving around. The drum treatment in here is awesome. There's some different sounds being made percussively, only to be interrupted by those synth keys that would be more fitting for a church organ on rock Sunday. But once he lets you get back into the low-toned lyrics and the song be its own again, we dip right back into some mystical sort of relaxing groove.
"Getaway" has an opening riff that makes it immediately lovable. It's got the freedom and love hippie-esq sound that you need for a light funk album, and a dance-y rhythm to intrigue the body to get moving. Now, the rest of the song takes it back down to a more together tone with definitely leading vocals, but the goodness of the song isn't gone. The direction taken throughout this just makes for good music. Whether sitting or getting into the flow of it up on your feet, I think this one's just got something great to it without going overboard on the intensity.
"Kingdom of Izzness" kind of falls more back on those keys as the primary way about the song. The girls backing him give this a very classic sort of sound, while the rest sound very much like a jam song that you'd just hear while lying back and letting the world go by. The song is steady, and the lyrics are enchanting, slightly. Nothing incredible to write home about, but not bad as to provoke changing the track onto the next one.
A much bluesier sound comes out as the guitar leads us in to "You Lie." This guitar has all the grit the record has shown us so far, but with the R&B feel we were promised in the description of the artist to sound. There's real piano hitting in the background as the rest of the band joins in as well. The sound is really, really great as a whole. Yes, there's intensity to the playing, as the beats hit and hit hard each time. The voices are all together on this one, giving more of a chorus sound, and then this cleaner guitar sound comes through. It's simply pretty on the rock sound side of things, and you just get immersed and want more of this awesome sound!
There's sort of more of a Sweetwater sound for "Eleggua." The little electric organ sound is there, holding out, then getting broken down by the guitar/bass. It's a lot of nonsense lyrically (not that that's always a bad thing). I guess it makes for a good interlude sort of track in my head, almost better instrumentally to give a small palate cleanser before we move on to the next portion of the album. It's supposed to be a full-on track though. Eh, music can be whatever we damn well want it to be.
Oh, a light gospel sound starts in for "My Children, My Angels." The vocals almost mimic Leonard Cohen at the start, but go back to Dr. John's higher half-singing methods. The drums bring on the backing, and it's really not the gospel song I assumed at first. It's actually incredibly pop-sounding, but with a tone that brings your eyes downward to really listen in. The song is serious without bogging you down though. It's just a general message of work and believing and loving. Very light, very easy to hear.
"God's Sure Good" is the final song on the album. I may have missed something religious about this entire album up until the track right before this. Regardless, John's thankful and so happy for the life he's been given. For a man who's been involved in the music industry for 60+ years, I can't blame him. That's quite a life to lead, and he's still making an impact. It's good for him that he can put this kind of grateful celebration into musical form.
Added to My Playlist:
- "You Lie"