Gris-Gris is the debut album by Dr. John, the Night Tripper.
Produced by Harold Battiste, the album was released on Atco Records in 1968. The musical style of Gris-Gris is a hybrid of New Orleans rhythm and blues and psychedelic rock.
Despite the New Orleans style, it was recorded in California with several native New Orleans musicians.
Gris-Gris failed to chart in the United Kingdom and the United States. It was re-issued on compact disc decades later and received much greater praise from modern critics, including being listed highly in Rolling Stone magazine's list of list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
Before recording the album, Mac Rebennack was an experienced New Orleans R&B and rock musician playing as a session musician, songwriter, and producer in New Orleans. Due to drug problems and the law, Dr.John moved to Los Angeles in 1965, joining an a group of New Orleans session musicians. Rebennack survived by playing with various pop and rock recording sessions, receiving much of this work with the help of New Orleanian arranger Harold Battiste.
Rebennack desired to make an album that combined the various strains of New Orleans music behind a front man named Dr. John. Dr. John was to be named after a black man named Dr. John Montaine who claimed to be an African potentate. Rebennack chose this name because his sister knew information about Montaine and that Rebennack felt a "spiritual kinship" with him. Rebennack originally wanted New Orleans singer Ronnie Barron to front the band as the Dr. John character, but Don Costa who managed Barron at the time advised him against it claiming it to be a bad career move. Rebennack took on the Dr. John stage name himself.
Gris-Gris was recorded in Gold Star Studios in Los Angeles, California. With an album due and no singer prepared, Dr. John managed to book studio time originally reserved for Sonny & Cher.
Release and reception
Gris-Gris was released in 1968 on Atco Records, a sub-label of Atlantic Records. Atlantic exectuve Ahmet Ertegun was reluctant on releasing the record at first, exclaiming "How can we market this boogaloo crap?". Gris-Gris failed to chart in the United States and United Kingdom. Modern reception of the album has been very positive. Richie Unterberger of Allmusic gave the album five out of five stars, referring to it as "The most exploratory and psychedelic outing of Dr. John's career". In 1999, Tom Moon of Rolling Stone gave the album a positive review, with a rating of four stars out of five. In 2003, the album was ranked number 143 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
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