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Medicated Magic

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Album Review

New Orleans' most famous, well-traveled, and recorded brass band celebrates its 25th anniversary with its ninth release. Best known in rock circles for contributions to albums from the Black Crowes, Elvis Costello, and especially Widespread Panic (with whom they toured and whose John Bell appears as guest vocalist on a track), the hotshot horn men offer few surprises on this disc predominantly comprised of popular Crescent City classics. But why bother stretching boundaries when their sound remains unique, stimulating, and inspiring? Adding a full-time keyboardist and guitar fleshes out but doesn't dilute the seven tooting horns as they tear through an inspired if slightly obvious set of covers from hometown legends Aaron Neville ("Tell It Like It Is"), the Meters ("Africa," "Cissy Strut"), Irma Thomas ("Ruler of My Heart"), and Dr. John ("Walk on Gilded Splinters," "Junko Partner") with infectious enthusiasm. Guests range from sacred steel guitar master Robert Randolph — whose soaring, hair-raising solos on three tracks infuse even more goosebumps than the already nail-biting musicianship — to Dr. John on vocals and piano, DJ Logic (adding nifty scratching doesn't appreciably update the Dozens' down-home approach), and jazzman Olu Dara. Sexy chanteuse Norah Jones gets slinky on the most sensuous version of "Ruler of My Heart" ever recorded, and Dr. John's gritty vocals make the slow-groove version of Allen Toussaint's "Everything I Do Gon' Be Funky" even better than Lee Dorsey's original. But no matter how often you've heard these tunes, the Dirty Dozen's crackling second-line rhythms, bumping tuba basslines, and uncanny ability to shift from boiling low-down gumbo to cool jazz make the versions here essential listening. "It Ain't Nothin' but a Party," as they say in the appropriately titled opening track. [The Japanese import of Medicated Magic features two bonus tracks.]

Biography

Formed: 1975 in New Orleans, LA

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

In their prime, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band successfully mixed together R&B with the instrumentation of a New Orleans brass band. Featuring Kirk Joseph on sousaphone playing with the agility of an electric bassist, the group revitalized the brass band tradition, opening up the repertoire and inspiring some younger groups to imitate its boldness. Generally featuring five horns (two trumpets, one trombone, and two saxes) along with the sousaphone, a snare drummer, and a bass drummer, the DDBB were...
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Medicated Magic, Dirty Dozen Brass Band
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