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Album Review: Locked Down

22 April 2012 | 12:42 pm | Dan Condon

If Locked Down makes him hip again, the world will be a better place for it.

It's not that Dr John necessarily needs to be resurrected to reach a potentially younger audience; he simply deserves it. The 71-year-old legend of boogie-woogie, psychedelia, jazz, rock and blues has been touring solidly to packed houses the world over, but becoming a little staid and safe; still good, but no longer that mind-bending purveyor of wild musical explorations.

As producer, The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach is behind this reinvention of Dr John (real name Mac Rebennack), and in charge of enlisting the young players accompanying him here. He's done a sterling job. For the first time in decades, Dr John sounds like the same artist who influenced so many over the years. Don't go expecting a new I Walk On Guilded Splinters, this isn't the next Gris Gris, but there are ten genuinely great songs here showing Rebennack hasn't lost his flair for voodoo soul.

With tools like Rebennack's deep, casually commanding voice and considerable keyboard skills, it's Auerbach's battle to lose, but he injects little drops of genius all over; the swing of the saxophone in Big Shot, the torturous timbre of the fuzz guitar leading out Getaway, the soulful choir painting redemption all over closing track God's Been Good after 40-odd minutes of steamy, nasty R'n'B.  First single Revolution has that timeless feel; it'll never be a hit, but will sound as good in 30 years as it does today and the spooky You Lie just makes you want to lose your mind and let the chant take over. Hell, every song's a winner and better than anything Dr John has released since his heyday.

If Locked Down makes him hip again, the world will be a better place for it.

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