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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Should have been warmer still..., 14 Jan. 2010
This review is from: Uncanned! The Best Of Canned Heat (Audio CD)
There have been many Canned Heat compilations issued on CD but none that I have seen have ever struck the right balance when it comes to cherry-picking their best material - which is strange given that the 'glory years' of this hard-working band cover a relatively short timespan from 1968 until the death of co-founder and principle songwriter Alan 'Blind Owl' Wilson in Sept. 1970. Granted, they did shoe-horn no less than six albums into this period but given that this is a double CD set there are still one or two surprising omissions along with too many unnecessary inclusions which ultimately thwarts this release's chances of being the compilation to beat.
First of all, there is an over-representation of their self-titled first album from 1967 which, to be honest, always sounded a bit weedy to these ears and lacked both the fire and the chops which were hallmarks of subsequent releases (they were better served by the live footage from Monterey, a festival appearance that helped to expose them to a wider record-buying public). There are also a smattering of contemporaneous cuts that didn't make the album which are of relatively little interest when there is a better case for including, say, some choice live cuts from the years that followed.
The second LP (and the first with long-time drummer and keeper of the flame, Fito De La Parra) from the following year, 'Boogie With Canned Heat' was a dramatic improvement and, along with 'Future Blues' from 1970, is the most consistent album they did. To be honest, the album's better cuts like 'On The Road Again' and 'Amphetamine Annie' are here, and, thankfully, the over-long solofest 'Fried Hockey Boogie' isn't.
Onto the third album - also from 1968, 'Living the Blues', originally a half-studio/half-live double LP, and this time decent studio cuts (forget the live sides as they comprised solely of an extremely self-indulgent 40 minute version of the aforemention 'Fried Hockey Boogie) like 'One Kind Favor' and 'Pony Blues' are missing.
The next album, from 1969, was 'Halelujah', and the better songs ARE here like 'Time Was' and, huzzah!, the brilliant non-album a-side 'Poor Moon', Wilson's lament to potential environmental disaster. This single stiffed on release and it's possible that its failure (especially as the subject matter was close to Wilson's heart) exacerbated the depression with which Wilson habitually suffered and, allegedly, may have had a hand in his untimely demise one year later.
Then we move onto the final album featuring Wilson (apart from the collaboration with John Lee Hooker of which there are no tracks here - surprise, surprise...), 'Future Blues' - for me the best album they did, not least because of the incendiary guitar work by new boy (and soon to be old boy) Harvey Mandel. Nearly half of the album's tracks are here, including the two excellent singles 'Let's Work Together' and 'Sugar Bee', but the two real standout tracks are omitted - 'So Sad (The World's In A Tangle)' and 'London Blues' - one being another ecological lament and the other presumably about Wilson's expected liason with a groupie/hanger-on/fan which didn't materialise (sadly all too true in real life, apparently). After Wilson's death the band's quality control went downhill pretty quickly accompanied with bad money deals and what amounted to a revolving-door policy but the following album or two did have their moments and the best of these are tagged on at the end, including a decent co-billing with a certain Richard Penniman.
So, rather too much middling material plus a few gaping holes add up to a missed opportunity to really put the record straight, but at the current price I would still say go for it until this once-great band get the lavish re-issue treatment they deserve.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 14 Jan 2010 21:19:56 GMT
Apologies - while editing my review I managed to knock out a paragraph praising the collection for including two or three worthy rarities including the single 'Wooly Bully' and 'The Human Condition' - a song written by Wilson and recorded not long before his death but didn't turn up on album or single at the time. Regards, SCH.
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