Released through legendary producer Joel Dorn's Hyena Records label, this album features the good Doctor alone at a piano in 1986 at the Lonestar in NYC. An appealing idea in theory but the actual results are grating. It's a serious challenge to get through this whole disc of familiar New Orleans boogie-woogie and pointless rambling. He does show off the unreal range of the piano, albeit in an overly busy way. The sonics of this set, taken from Dr. John's personal live recordings by Dorn, are sharp in the ear and when combined with the chirpy tone of the material it really falls apart. Even his voice sounds cliché, a pumpkin slowly collapsing in, all rough skin and a crooked smile. Unlike Tom Waits, Dr. John has become more mannered, more a caricature of his youthful old-before-his-time gravel tongue with every passing year.

Why Dorn decided to open this new series of Dr. John live releases with this one is beyond me. More interesting would be something from his Night Tripper days when he hung with guitar stranglers and black widow spiders in Babylon. Given that there's already several traditional New Orleans records from the Doctor readily available and not a single decent live set from the '70s it's all the more baffling. The DVD that accompanies the audio disc only adds to the frustration as John goes on at length about music back in the day. It's like being trapped on an airplane next to someone who just won't shut up about something you're not all that interested in to begin with. If a solo piano set that highlights the virtues of New Orleans' musical heritage is what you crave then seek out James Booker's stupendous Junco Partner to hear how this can be done right.

Dennis Cook
JamBase | Oakland
Go See Live Music!


[Published on: 4/24/04]

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