From The Vault: Dr. John, The Night Tripper – Gris-Gris (1968)
“They call me Doctor John, known as the Night Tripper …”
Yes the Doctor is the last of the best. As I’ve said before I first encountered the Doctor on a late night Progressive Radio Station WDAS, in Philadelphia, which broadcast heady material in the early sixties for only a couple of hours each night. Can you imagine being a young teenager laying in bed, the only light coming from the back of a plastic AM/FM radio and hearing “I Walked On Gilded Splinters.” I knew my musical life was in for an adventure.
His second offering “Night Tripper” wasn’t about drugs, though it did lend itself to the spirits of the time, the substance digested. The record was actually put out wholly in support of the Gris Gris Women, the Witches, those who applied the mystical arts for healing, using the dark and white arts, of potions, candles, and chants. This was one spooky album, equal to Dylan’s “Ballad Of A Thin Man,” the music gave a girl from Philadelphia a glimpse of things that existed far outside the boundaries of anything I have ever experienced … all I wanted to do was go to New Orleans and learn the magical arts for the Doctor and his band.
What I didn’t know was what a talented man the Doctor John was, that he was primarily a session man who knew every song ever written by heart. For its day, this album was mixed to perfection [better than most today], voices floating in and out like ghosts, swirling sounds rising from the groves of the record like smoke. The album is so full of texture that you could cut it with a knife. There is nothing pretentious here, nothing over processed, or trite. This album stands today as one of the most important recordings ever laid down … and it gives me chills to this very day just thinking about it.
There is power in these songs, Doctor John was psychedelic, and of the times without even knowing it … which makes this some of the purest music you will ever hear.
– Jenell Kesler
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