After the release of Mardi Gras in 1975, Dr. John (aka Mac Rebennack) left Atlantic Records. In late 1977, he signed with A&M's Horizon imprint – a label whose purpose was to showcase the jazz side of its parent company. City Lights is the better of two recordings he cut there. Produced by Tommy LiPuma and Hugh McCracken, City Lights was recorded at New York's Hit Factory Studios with a band of studio aces: drummer Steve Gadd, guitarists Cornell Dupree and John Tropea, bassist Will Lee, and Richard Tee as an additional keyboardist; Arthur Jenkins added percussive effects. The five-piece horn section included both David Sanborn and Ronnie Cuber. What's really startling, however, is the material. For most of the 1970s, Rebennack had been playing well-known tunes by other Crescent City luminaries and pop songwriters, contributing precious little of his material to his albums. On City Lights he wrote or co-wrote everything on the set. His songwriting partner for part of this date was none other than Doc Pomus. The best of both men is captured on the opener, "Dance the Night Away with You," a strolling New Orleans R&B number.
City Lights is Charlie Chaplin's masterpiece. In my opinion, it is also the greatest of all silent comedies. Criterion's Blu-ray release of City Lights offers some important improvements in the video department and a wonderful selection of supplemental features, including a very good new audio commentary by Chaplin biographer Jeffrey Vance. Having seen a couple of Region-B releases, I think that this release should be considered the definitive presentation of City Lights on both sides of the Atlantic. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.