Dr. John Dr. John: The Atco/Atlantic Singles 1968-1974
New Orleans’ Dr. John has written, recorded, performed and produced rivers of music during a 60-year studio career. Along the way, he won six Grammy Awards and joined the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Despite being incredibly prolific in the studio, Dr. John’s 1968-1974 stay at Atlantic Records’ subsidiary label Atco remains his most commercially successful era.
“Dr. John: The Atco/Atlantic Singles” collects his Atco A-sides and B-sides. The obvious hits are here. There’s “Right Place Wrong Time,” a funky Top 10 hit from 1973 produced and arranged by a kindred New Orleans spirit, Allen Toussaint. There’s also the lighthearted and always charming “Such A Night,” another Toussaint production.
Digging deeper, the gems in the 22-song collection include songs from 1968’s psychedelic, voodoo-laced “Gris-Gris” and 1972’s “Gumbo.” The latter is a New Orleans-based project that yielded authentic renditions of James “Sugar Boy” Crawford’s “Jock-A-Mo” (later recorded as “Iko Iko” by The Dixie Cups) and “Huey Smith Medley: High Blood Pressure, Don’t You Just Know It, Well I’ll Be John Brown.” Other Atco/Atlantic Singles” highlights include the Toussaint-penned masterpiece “Life” and a beautifully warm take on Earl King’s altruistic “Let’s Make a Better World.”
Not taking anything away from Dr. John or his frequently from New Orleans collaborators, but he, unfortunately, had no involvement in releasing or assembling this collection. Another example of more music business stuff that leaves the actual creators of the music out of the loop.
Darlene Love Introducing Darlene Love
Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello and E Street Band member Steven Van Zandt need no introduction to Darlene Love.
Love, for those who don’t know, sang for many Phil Spector “wall-of-sound” classics, including “He’s a Rebel” and “He’s Sure the Boy I Love.” As an in-demand backup singer, she enhanced recordings by Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, The Beach Boys, and Tom Jones.
On “Introducing Darlene Love,” Love’s first album in decades, she’s surrounded by a loving supporting cast. Van Zandt produced and arranged. Springsteen, Costello and Van Zandt and other notables contribute songs.
At 74, Love still has the mighty voice needed for epic studio productions. She applies it to two Springsteen songs, “Night Closing In” and “Just Another Lonely Mile.” Although Van Zandt undermines the latter song with an overlong intro, he’s on top of his Spector-modeled arranging game for the Costello-written “Forbidden Nights.”
Despite a few questionable choices by Van Zandt, Love’s album is both a love letter from her famous fans and something fans of Springsteen, Costello and Van Zandt can savor, too.