Monday, March 18, 2024

Dr. John - Babylon (1969 us, extraordinary avant garde jazz dixie voodoo funk, 2017 remaster)

Standing out as one of Dr. John’s most overtly political album, Babylon rings just as true as it did when it was first released in 1969, and it hasn’t lost any of its voodoo magic either. Originally cut in late ‘68, the album was influenced by dark themes such as the assassinations of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., the Tet offensive, and the Vietnam War.

While the lyrics can be clumsy at times, there are moments that shine through with a weight it still holds to this day, as on the album’s title track “No politicians/No higher religions/To guide you from the dark.”

While the lyrics can be heavy, the music is weightless and the brand of Weird that Dr. John specialized in. Loaded with electronic effects and unthinkable, otherworldly rhythms, the remastering further draws out and amplifies Dr. John’s legendary New Orleans sound of voodoo-funk with the occasional jazz influence; a smoky and sexy groove with the sharp edge of something sinister. A darkness in the almost trance-like chant of Dr. John’s delivery.

What falls a bit short is the music itself. There are times where it fades a bit too much into the background, gives up a bit too much of its power to the lyrics. As a result, some of the mysticism is lost and it’s difficult to establish a connection from one song to the next. Even so, Babylon still carries enough magic to make goose bumps crawl across your skin when the rhythm slows on a song like “Twilight Zone” and the lyrics “In the outer limits of a land unknown/In the twilight zone,” mumbled like a spell.
by Talia Boettinger
1. Babylon - 5:24
2. Glowin' - 5:40
3. Black Widow Spider - 4:15
4. Barefoot Lady (Dr. John Creaux, Harold Battiste) - 3:11
5. Twilight Zone - 8:17
6. The Patriotic Flag-Waiver - 4:57
7. The Lonesome Guitar Strangler - 5:36
All compositions by Malcolm Rebennack "Dr John Creaux"

*Dr. John - Vocals, Keyboards, Guitar, Percussion
*Richard "Didimus" Washington - Guitar, Percussion
*Plas Johnson - Saxophone
*Moe Bechamin - Tenor Saxophone
*Alvin Robinson - Guitar
*Steve Mann - Guitar
*Al Frazier - Bass
*John Boudreaux - Drums
*Ronnie Barron - Organ
*Jessie Hill - Backing Vocals, Percussion
*Shirley Goodman - Backing Vocals
*Tami Lynn - Backing Vocals
*John McAlister - Quarter-Tone Piano, Gongs, Celesta

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