March 01, 2005

One In Ten

"Sho Bout To Drive Me Wild" (M. Rebennack - A. Robinson - J. Hill - K. Floyd)
Dr. John, John Hammond, Jr, & Mike Bloomfield, from Triumvirate, Columbia, 1973

Sho bout done

This is my choice cut from an LP/CD I’d put in the “seemed like a good idea at the time” category, Triumvirate. Back then, certain powers at Columbia concocted the concept of bringing blues channeler John Hammond, Jr. (vocals, guitar), hot lead guitarist Mike Bloomfield, and gris-gris piano professor Dr. John (aka Mac Rebennack) together for a record, seemingly just to see what would happen. The original 1973 album notes relate that the sessions in San Francisco were difficult and chaotic; but, in the end, Dr. John brought in his own New Orleans drummer, Fred Staehle, added bass player Chris Etheridge (Flying Burrito Bros, Ry Cooder), and did the arrangements himself, helping pull the music together and get the album completed. I’m not all that sure what producer Thomas Jefferson Kaye brought to the party. Maybe the weed.

“Sho Bout To Drive Me Wild” is flat out the best of the several funky tunes Dr. John chose for the sessions and can stand on its own merits. Written in the late 1960’s by Rebennack and his fellow New Orleans expatriates in Los Angeles, Alvin Robinson, Jessie Hill, and King Floyd, the song was first recorded by Robinson* in 1969 for the Pulsar label; but it was more rocking and straight ahead than what Dr. John cooked up for Triumvirate. Staehle, another great HOTG skins man, makes with the breaks and gives good groove here while Ethreridge bounces along and the horns jump, stab, and sway. As the album’s designated lead singer, Hammond delivers a swampy vocal. Or is it just the mix?

As you might guess, I prefer the four NOLA-related songs that the good Dr. obviously brought to the proceedings: our feature, plus King Floyd’s “Baby Let Me Kiss You”, “Cha-Dooky-Do” (done by Art Neville back in the 1950’s), and “I Yi Yi”, a kind of barrelhouse takeoff on a Hawks tune from way back; but they aren’t enough to make this album rise above a mediocre collaboration. The rest of the album’s material is bluezoid cover stuff with only Willie Dixon’s “Pretty Thing” having much life to it. “Sho Bout” is the one song that makes the whole project worth talking about. Hope you dig it.

*Alvin Robinson’s version can be found on the Ace (UK) CD comp, Still Spicy Gumbo Stew


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