on July 30, 2001
"Desitively Bonnaroo" was Dr. John's 1974 sequel to his smash "In the Right Place" LP of the year before. It continues in the sleek funk vein of 1970's New Orleans R&B, but failed to click hit-wise--which is surprising, as it is easily on par with his "Right Place/Wrong Time" and 1972 "Gumbo" collection of New Orleans oldies. If you liked "RP/WT" then you should absolutely get "Desitively!"
Here, Dr. John (a/k/a Mac Rebennack) reunites with "Right Place's" producer/arranger Allen Toussaint, the Meters as backup band, and a full horn section. Mac contributes mostly his wonderful gravelly singing and clever jive filled songs. His trademark acoustic piano playing is limited in this electric-funk setting, but Toussaint's inventive arrangements take these songs to a place beyond traditional New Orleans' styles.
Check out Toussaint's sublime horn arrangement at the intro to Earl King's "Let's Make A Better World" and the spooky interplay infesting Mac's own "What Comes Around (Goes Around)." The Meters are restrained in their backup role, but contribute artfully throughout. Art Neville's whispery organ peaks out soulfully behind "Me minusYou equals Loneliness" and George Porter's inventive bass line to "Sing Along Song" turns a campfire tune into a funky romp. This was a classy kind of funk that was unique in R&B--It still is.
With a collection of talent and songs this strong, "Desitively" should have been another smash, but a variety of factors (drugs, record label non-support, resistance from rapidly consolidating radio markets) left this gem in the dust. With the exception of Toussaint's production of "Lady Marmalade" for Labelle (1974), nimble New Orleans R&B lost out to the much heavier stylings of George Clinton, the Ohio Players, disco, etc. You'd have to look to Bob Marley and other reggae groups--all fans of N.O. R&B--to find this light-on-its-feet approach to soul music in the mid-1970s.
Dr. John's "Desitively" period is also documented in a video (available via Amazon) of the 1974 PBS program, "Dr. John: New Orleans Swamp - Soundstage." This hour-long TV special features Dr. John appearing with his road band, in addition to Professor Longhair (!) and Earl King--both backed by The Meters, who do a couple of numbers themselves. Musically, it's a bit shaggy compared to the funky precision of their records, but provides a glimpse of the short lived New Orleans R&B boomlet of the mid-1970s.
Give "Desitively Bonnaroo" a spin and relive it again. This is good time music, funky music, played with verve, craft and wit. If you're feeling wheezy, call the Doctor to radiate the eighty-eights, put some zip in your hip, and fix that hole in your soul. It delivers just what the Doctor ordered.
SIDE BAR: The Dr. John albums, "Gumbo," "In the Right Place," and "Desitively Bonnaroo" are three parts of a classic New Orleans 70's R&B collection. I'd add the Meters' newly re-released "Rejuvenation" (1973), and "Fire on the Bayou" (1974), plus the Meters' "ghost" album called "The Wild Tchoupitoulas" (1976), Lee Dorsey's "Yes We Can" (1971) and Allen Toussaint's "Southern Nights" (1975) (now only available as an import) to the list. NOTE: Toussaint's still-available "Ultimate Collection" contains several "Southern Nights" tracks and quite a few other greatest non-hits. Nearly all these albums are Allen Toussaint/Meters collaborations. They all sound similar, but you can never get too much of a good thing when that thing is this good!
on May 8, 2001
A re-release of Mac's second CD, produced and arranged by Allen Toussaint with the Meters as the house band. I've been looking for this CD for a few years now and was really psyched to see the re-release. The sound is similar to "Right Place" which had the same band and producer. This is a total NO music fest with excellent songs and playing without relying on a lot of New Orleans music cliche's. This is one of my favorite periods of Dr. John's music. The song writing, playing, backup singers, and his voice are at their most distinctive. This is the kind of music that made Mac famous. You can tell that Mac has a young spirit and and really wanted to make a complete swamp-funk record. I like a lot of his later work, but with all artists, there's a difference between the raw early stuff and the more polished older stuff. I'd highly reccomend getting this CD, Gumbo, Right Place, and Gris Gris to start off your Dr. John collection and to really find out what New Orleans music is about. There's a lot of good time party music (some of which is sublime... see Rebirth's "We Come to Party" and the Meters "Live on the Queen Mary") that lacks depth. Mac's early work has a depth and mysticism combined with great playing that really is greater than the sum of it's parts.
Also, this CD has "Everybody Wanna Get Rich (Rite Away)" that Robert Walter covers on his excellent CD, Money Shot.
p.s. In case the references to Mac don't make any sense, Dr. John (the Night Tripper) is the character that Mac Rebennac plays i.e. Mac is Dr. John.
on September 3, 2001
This album is an all-time favourite of mine - a fantastic collection of superb songs, intelligent texts, Dr. John's voice, brilliant music and superb back-up singers.
All the songs, quick or slow, are excellent in their own rights.
Even if you never heard about Dr. john before, this album is a must-have... - thank you ever so much, M label, for releasing this masterpiece (earlier only found on vinyl) on CD!
Finally, the CD sounds just as great (Bass etc.) as the record did - well done!