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Dr. John has recorded many great albums, but it's difficult to argue with such a perfect distillation of his catchy, grooving, slapdash pop work as this Rhino set. Coming out of the R&B studio subculture of New Orleans, the former Mac Rebennack possessed songwriting smarts and reams of recording expertise, each of which had reached their peak by the early '70s. Focused squarely on that prime era, 1970 through 1974, the collection begins with his only Top Ten hit, 1973's irrepressibly fatalistic "Right Place, Wrong Time." Two others come from his best album (1973's In the Right Place), the jaunty "Such a Night" and "Qualified." 1972's Dr. John's Gumbo also rates three tracks: the New Orleans classics "Iko Iko" and "Tipitina," plus "Junko Partner." The compilers were also wise to choose three songs from Gris-Gris, his unjustly neglected psychedelic debut, including "Mama Roux" and "I Walk on Guilded Splinters" (but unfortunately, not the glorious "Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya Ya"). A version of Jimmy Liggins' jump-blues classic "Honeydripper," from 1981's Dr. John Plays Mac Rebennack, spotlights his sparkling boogie-woogie piano, and the set closes with a pair of standards from his latter-day Warner Bros. years (one of which is the unofficial Mardi Gras theme "Goin' Back to New Orleans"). Whether it's for a first listen or the perfect road-trip disc, The Very Best of Dr. John has all of the New Orleans master's best recordings in one spot.