As an artist primarily known for albums and live performance, itâ€™s hard to imagine anyone but the most ardent Dr. John record collectors being able to name more than two or three of his singles. â€œRight Place Wrong Timeâ€ comes easily to the mind of anyone who was around for its original run up the chart to #9. But other than that, what? Well, it turns out that several of Dr. Johnâ€™s iconic album tracks – â€œIko Ikoâ€ from 1972â€™s Gumbo and â€œSuch a Nightâ€ from 1973â€™s In the Right Place – were also released as singles, though neither had the chart success of â€œRight Place Wrong Time.â€ So thatâ€™s three. And yet, during Dr. Johnâ€™s stay on Atco and Atlantic, he actually released a half-dozen more singles, all of which are collected here – Aâ€™s, Bâ€™s and alternate flips, along with several UK- and promo-only sides.
One has to wonder who Atlantic thought was going to play these singles; particularly since they didnâ€™t often differ greatly from the album cuts prefered by FM. â€œIko Ikoâ€ was trimmed by a minute, â€œI Walk on Gilded Splintersâ€ was trimmed and split into two parts, and â€œWang Dang Doodleâ€ was excised from the Mar Y Sol concert album, but the rest seem closely aligned with the albums. Of interest to collectors will be a few rarities offered here, highlighted by â€œThe Patriotic Flag Waver.â€ On this 1968 single, presented in the long mono promo cut, Dr. John manages to combine a childrenâ€™s chorus, â€œMy Country â€˜Tis of Thee,â€ â€œAmerica the Beautiful,â€ social commentary and New Orleans funk. Even more rare is Dr. Johnâ€™s guest appearance, alongside Eric Clapton, on the original 1972 single version of labelmate Buddy Guyâ€™s â€œA Man of Many Words.
The collection pulls together Dr. Johnâ€™s singles, EP and promo-only sides, and both B sides of â€œOh, What a Night,â€ which featured â€œCold Cold Cold in the U.S. and â€œLifeâ€ in the U.K. Presented in roughly (though not strictly) chronological order, the singles tell the story of Dr. Johnâ€™s early years as the Night Tripper, his ex-pat Los Angeles edition of New Orleans soul, and his brief intersection with mainstream fame. Itâ€™s an unusual lens to place on the career of an artist better known for albums and live performances, but as a quick look at his seven years on Atco, itâ€™s surprisingly good. The albums are out there to be had, but hearing the years compressed into a generous 71 minutes is a worthwhile trip. [Â©2015 Hyperbolium]