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39 tracks (31 on the cassette version) that capture this living New Orleans legend in all his guises, from voodoo high priest (as the Night Tripper and even with Morgus amp; the Three Ghouls) to beret-clad New Orleans jazz sophisticate. Includes hits Iko Iko and Right Place Wrong Time, as well as spooky classics like Walk on Guilded Splinters and Jump Sturdy. Long-overdue anthology.
New Orleans' burgeoning '50s Ramp;B scene was the crucible for Mac Rebennack, an in-demand session guitarist in his teens, but he was sidelined by a gunshot wound to his left hand. He learned organ, then blossomed as a gifted pianist in a city renowned for brilliant, idiosyncratic players, and Mac soaked up the tradition. A move to Los Angeles and a trippy side project under the nom du disque of Dr. John, the Night Tripper, clinched his fate, giving American music one of its most ebullient, reliably musical originals. It's his gravelly, juicy voice that has earned him instant recognition, but Dr. John remains a student and evangelizer of his hometown's funky, fertile blues, Ramp;B, and jazz canon. This superb two-disc survey serves both him and his origins well, ranging from early forays with Ronnie amp; The Delinquents and Morgus amp; The 3 Ghouls to the swampy brilliance of his solo career. His theatrical gris-gris remains deliciously spooky, but it's his later work that shines, from the brilliant Ramp;B history lesson that yielded his classic Gumbo album, through his biggest single hit, "Right Place, Wrong Time" and his '80s forays into jazz and standards. --Sam Sutherland