Dr John Locked Down 07

I’m feeling kinda tired, my reviews have lost their sparkle; I’m just going through the motions, Lego-ically speaking; I just don’t mean it any more (man).  I know, I need a reboot.  Rick Rubin’s the guy I’d really like to get in to punch up my next review, help me strip it all back down and take it all back to the basics.  Mind you he’s pretty expensive, his AC/DC album was a bit of a wet fart and Rick might just be a bit straight-forward for me.  I know, I’ll get Dan Auerbach instead, he’s a dab hand and he can help me assemble a bunch of young bucks to light a bit of a fire under my ass and bring back the energy of my earlier reviews.  Hell, I’ll probably scoop a Pulitzer next year*.

Dr John Locked Down 09

Okay, Dr John Locked Down from way, way back in the 2012-shaped mists of time.  Maybe it wasn’t strictly speaking a comeback LP, but it definitely was a return to some credibility for an artist who’d had a real creative peak a long time ago and was pretty much coasting, playing a B-movie version of himself for ever-dwindling returns.  Damned shame too, Babylon and Gris-Gris being such incredible, idiosyncratic albums and all.  Most casual bystanders assumed that whatever spark of melting genius that resided in the man’s dome had been fogged out long ago.

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It’s easy to be cynical as hell about the old-un/young-un team up LPs like this, but suspend it all immediately the proof of the pudding lies in the, umm, listening and Locked Down delivers in spades.  Auerbach took Dr John into a great-sounding room, teamed him up with a really good, but not starry band and refused to accept anything but real effort from the (then) 71 year-old.  I remember reading a magazine interview with Auerbach and it really didn’t sound easy, he hinted a little that there had been real conflict here but that everyone was real proud of the album.

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When I first bought Locked Down I liked a couple of tracks and was a bit underwhelmed by all the rest and told everyone who’d listen to me** that it was all very so-so.  I’m a cloth-eared idiot, ignore me – this is a brilliant LP, maybe a bit too subtle for me on first listen.

Dr John Locked Down 05Dr John Locked Down 04

‘Locked Down’ and ‘Revolution’ sped away straight off the blocks and whacked me around the face.  Hurricane Katrina and its political aftermath are never directly mentioned on the LP, but you feel its presence behind a lot of Locked Down, particularly these two tracks.  The title track conjures up a soupy sixties-flavoured palette, with some great backing vocals and a real funky strut aided and abetted by the main man’s electric piano swirls.  ‘Revolution’ sounds older again, a step backwards to borrow some jazz-flavoured licks, appropriate for a song dealing with age-old-deadly-current issues,

Angels surrender, killed in their tracks
Babies, women raped
Leaders on their backs
Religious delusions
Stoned confusions
Prepare your Revolution
Is this the final solution?

The song shimmies and parps in all the right places, there’s anger in the words but not in the delivery.  My real big favourite ‘Big Shot’ is up next, sounding a little like a Cab Calloway / Cotton Club reject around the edges, with an almost pump organ sound, which stacks up nicely next to, the quite brilliant, ‘Ice Age’ which has, I kid you not, an African Township jive feel about its guitars and rhythm.  I really love this melting pot of ideas and details, there’s so much to listen to on this album, loads of little details in the mix, I keep discovering solos and instrumental touches that make me wonder if I was listening properly last time.  That can only be down to the sheer quality of the writing and production here, as always for Auerbach it sounds warm and punchy.

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There’s a diverse bunch of styles and accents on Locked Down, but the one constant is a certain bluesy funky swing beat^, whether the song’s slow, or faster it’s still there.  There is an unseemly amount of lewd hip action throughout the album as a whole, thank God; even on the tracks that mention children, angels and God.  The band sound great, real fluid and slinky and the grand physician himself certainly hasn’t lost any of his touch behind the keyboard, whether driving the rhythm, or adding flavour and spice up top.

Sleeve notes!!!
Sleeve notes!!!
The sleeve notes^* penned by Gabe Soria pretty much nail the whole affair, penned in Dr John’s own patented New-Awlins psycho-hepcattery jive-talk – think Lord Buckley on low voltage, he vamps on the whole Dr John / Mac Rebennack persona and the tale of how Locked Down came together and came good.  Soria characterises the album as, ‘an invitation to do a dirty grind in a backroom bar at 3AM and a call to go to church the next day’, sounds great to me and if the latter is the price of the former then so be it; this once.  Particularly if today’s hymn is the closing ‘God’s Sure Good’ with its thrust and Al Kooper-esque organ touches it elevates what could be a helping of soppy triteburger in the wrong hands, to a slice of soulful joy pie.  These are definitely the right hands.

The whole Locked Down experience has been, to commit a back catalogue burglarwordization Right Place, Right Time, Right Hands!

581 Down.

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PS: a sticker on my LP proudly tells me that this album, which is admittedly GREAT sounding on vinyl, was ‘plated and pressed at Pallas, Diepholz, Germany’.  This is a demonstrably good thing.


*You see what I did there? I’m so clever! You really are totes honoured to read these words that I done squeeze out of my head, y’all.

**mostly my cat and dog, the expressions on the faces of creatures with fewer legs when I bang on about music tend to glaze over immediately before they employ those legs to back away.

^does that even make sense?  Is that a real thing, or have I just nailed a load of unrelated words together? I have no idea, I’ll just plough on regardless for now.  Locked Down did win the 2013 Grammy award for best blues album, so I may be onto something there.

^*SLEEVE NOTES!! Surely I don’t need to tell you again how much I love sleeve notes!!

38 thoughts on “Soul Joy Pie

  1. Dr. John FTW! I am a fan from waaaaaaaaaaaay back. Oh hells yes.

    I like that the vinyl came with a CD! I would NOT use that as a drinks coaster! But then, I actually keep CDs and you don’t, so there ya go.

    Somehow this album is here in my house and I love it. But you’re right – I think future listens will reveal far more layers. Yummy, yummy, and more yummy! NICE ONE!

  2. Perhaps you need something to reinvigorate you? Something to make you feel like your once dark and long-maned, hair metal juggernaut self? Maybe a good, month long heroin kick? Or possibly unprotected sex with dockside hookers? Snorting some fine Columbian off the tatted butt cheek of a Peruvian transvestite might kick some creativity up in you.

    If none of that appeals to you, then just have a cuppa and try it again tomorrow.

    This album was a surprise to me. I’m not a fan of the Black Keys, but I did like Auerbach’s solo record from a few years back. But this? Man, I was pretty impressed. I always wrote Dr. John off as a great musician, and a sort of one-hit wonder. I was wrong. I think putting him in the position to play with real musicians and making it a gritty, live-in-the-studio kind of record really brought something out of him. I think Auerbach is a better producer than maker of music. Just my opinion.

    Chin up, pal. A new Deafheaven album is on the horizon. There’s reason to write another day.

    1. Don’t worry it was all a devilishly clever rhetorical device to introduce the LP and the whole old fart/young buck dynamic.

      I’m still going to work my way through all your suggestions tomorrow lunchtime though, probably in alphabetical order.

      Auerbach produced the Bombino LP I really loved last year too, got a real good sound on that one too. The last Keys LP was a flop for me and so I hear what you’re saying there.

      1. Ah now I remember that one. I’d meant to check it out but I was too busy with world peace and not achieving it. Since I could care a less about the world now, I’ll listen to this in the morning. World’s best blogger? Was there an awards ceremony?

    1. Christ no, I’m brilliant at this! It was all a devilishly clever rhetorical device to introduce the LP and the whole old fart/young buck dynamic.

      Although I am deadly serious about having Jim Steinman produce my next review. It’d involve writing with the caps on a lot, I’d imagine.

    1. Just think yourself lucks that GG Allin’s kids don’t go there too.

      I can’t like Jack White, although I like a lot of his stuff, some instinct in me somewhere just won’t let me. Strange fella.

  3. Cool review, my only experience of Dr John was his performance with The Band in the film “The Last Waltz.” I have to say, his was one of the more memorable ones. My contribution to the conversation, did you know Dr John’s real name is Mac Revenac. There’s some useless trivia for you.

  4. Sorry to hear that you’re feeling a little less turbo’d in your charge! It may be a case of the post-awesome vacation blues. Luckily the good doctor has prescribed some bluesy funky swing beats to go with that magick slice of soulful joy pie. So, do I need to get Sirius radio now?

    1. Thank you and don’t worry it was all a devilishly clever rhetorical device to introduce the LP and the whole old fart/young buck dynamic.

      Quick to the Sirius-mobile!

      1. Now that I don’t need to light a candle to your speedy reinvigoration…I heart Dr. John. I’ve enjoyed his music since the first time I heard it. My standout favorite is still his duet with Etta James (“I’d Rather Go Blind”…in case enquiring minds wanted to know :)).

  5. Nice one – that Auerbach has really worked a treat. But aye, I have this one and feel pretty much the same as you about it. I think I put it down for years after initial indifference, but threw it on a couple of years ago when I was moving stuff on and thought “eh?” It’s a goody!

    1. I’d forgotten you’d seen him. Btw. Is Remedies much good?

      This album has really grown on me recently, I do really rate it. I’m a big fan of the vinyl/CD combo pack, I think I’ve only played the vinyl here maybe 4 times, let the silver take the strain.

      1. ‘Remedies’ is solid rather than exceptional. The tightly arranged songs on side one work pretty well (especially the hilarious ‘Mustang Sally’ rip-off ‘Wash Mama wash’) and the second side is a generous of stoned gumbo groove.

  6. A CD of the whole album? What the heck do you plan on doing with that??

    I do like me some Dr. John. One of the guys used to play him in the store…radio plays him now and then.

    I don’t think your reviews are lacking in any pep. I never could have come up with “shimmies and parps” for example. But if Rick Rubin returns your calls, that’s awesome too!

    1. It lived in my car for a couple of weeks, it’d make a nice drinks coaster…

      I think he’s such a great artist and I like the way he’s become a bit of an embodiment of New Orleans (not that I’ve been there yet).

      Thanks Mike, I’ve gone with Desmond Child in the end to punch up my reviews for radioplay, maybe land me a spot on a horror soundtrack compilation. I’d quite like to get Jim Steinman in to produce though, I’m a big fan of his understated ways.

      1. Steinman as understated is an understatement!
        If your recent reviews (like the stellar dire straits write-up) have been less than sparkly, I fear what a more scintillating review might look like!

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