Dr. John, the Night Tripper
Produced by Harold Battiste
Debut long player from the Doctor, the Night Tripper, produced and partially written by the legendary New Orleans native Harold Battiste, acid R&B, slow-crawling psychedelic nightmares, creeping from the swamps of Louisiana, cooked up in the Gold Star kitchens of the City of Angels, pots and pan acid batch bubbling voodoo, American as gumbo stew, jumping up on second-line hind legs for the “Jump Sturdy” strut down the street…tribal and influential, essential.
Almost not released by Atlantic and mostly ignored by the public (but likely noticed by the avant-garde element of LA who likely had influenced the Nighttripper), this recording eventually went on to take its rightful place in the annals of American music.
Even if you end up not digging it for days, everybody should at least give it a listen…sit in the dark and let your head spin around Jupiter…take a night trip through American history.
— winch (author of
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Come on Down!
produced by Tom Dowd
Harris goes to Florida for some fresh-squeezed sounds, all the way to the warm climes of Miami but obviously inspired by the red-hot deep-fried soul food offerings of Memphis and Muscle Shoals.
Backed with a cracker-jack team (including Donald “Duck” Dunn on bass and Cornell Dupree on guitar), Harris cooks up a rocking soul-jazz groove on “Live Right Now,” slowly turning up the heat as the number progresses, building it up until the pot is bubbling, until you can almost smell the gumbo steaming. “Really” comes up next on the menu, a slow-cooking soulful number, in sharp contrast to the cooker before it but equally powerful, Harris leading a soulful conversation, the cut unlike anything he’d done before. The flipside sounds slightly mild after those red-hot numbers, but the set is fairly consistent, quite enjoyable from start to finish, closing on a strong note with “Why Don’t You Quit.”
Producer Tom Dowd had a knack for putting the essential elements upfront to give the music a punch, while filling the backspace to keep it interesting. This set is certainly testimony to that.
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Les McCann & Eddie Harris
Produced by Nesuhi Ertegun & Joel Dorn
recorded June 1969
Classic spontaneous combustion soul jazz from McCann/Harris (they’d never rehearsed or played together), the set opening with a definitive version of McCann’s signature tune “Compared to What?” (Gene McDaniels), the rest instrumental, cooking from the get-go, keeping it going from go to whoa, turning down the flame and getting a bit reflective on the cuts that close the sides.
Solid set from 1969, essential listen for fans.
My First Time Around
Produced & Arranged by Brad Shapiro and Steve Alaimo
Good Shit *****
Solid debut from this Florida 14-year-old soul sister.
As the shag zebra-striped outfit suggests, this album wasn’t bubblegum soul but rather a young girl singing like a woman of experience, the presentation making no apologies for the fact that this set is dripping like the dew on a waterbed. Wright handles the material with ease, contributing one cut herself and making the others her own. The backing band is in fine form, the arrangements wrapping around her vocals like a silk slip, Murcia snaking his guitar licks into the mix.
This includes all her first A and B sides, and plenty of other gems. While some cuts are simply classic, the entire set is strong. No filler this time around.
Produced by Ilhan Mimaroglu
Offering healthy doses of the avant garde but grounded in a blend of hard bop and R&B (60s groove and 70s funk), this set opens with a hard-driving 10+ minute Pullen original called “Big Alice,” George Adams on alto, Michael Urbaniak on electric violin, Randy Brecker on trumpet, Pullen on piano, each getting time for solos as the rhythm section (bass plus three percussionists) keeps the sound powering along, a fairly funky freight train bouncing down the line. After the reflective post bop of “Autumn Song,” the side picks up the pace again, closing with “Poodie Pie” (Pullen, Morgan Burton, Sterling ” Satan” Magee), Mr. Satan’s guitar work more pronounced and helping carve out the groove, the cut featuring Pullen on clavinet, producer Mimaroglu with electronic tracks. While the groove moves through various tempos and moods, it never completely forgets where it started.
The second side opens with another stand-out Pullen original called “Kadji,” this number featuring an almost hip-shaking tempo but sounding like it owes something to Coltrane’s explorations of the African continent. After a free-form duet with Pullen and Adams, the set closes with a vocal cut, a reflective message song called “Let’s Be Friends” featuring the pipes of Rita DaCosta. While this set doesn’t end as strong as it opens, it remains interesting and enjoyable, moving through moods and tempos to create a totality of effect. There’s certainly enough solid material to make this recommended listening.