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Nothing But The Best, And Later For The Garbage.,
This review is from: CANNED HEAT & JOHN LEE HOOKER/HOOKER N H (Audio CD)
When this album was recorded in 1971, Hooker was in one of the more turbulent periods of his life - recently divorced, he had relocated from Detroit, home for the best part of thirty years, to the Bay Area of San Fransisco. We can assume that he was in a raw sort of state, then, when Canned Heat asked him to record an album with them for the Liberty label.
Rock's collaboration with the blues has a dubious history, notably the painfully 'psychedelic' experiments to which Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters were subjected. That 'Hooker & Heat' turned out to be a triumph is largely because the boys from the Heat kept themselves very much to a supporting role and treated it as an extended John Lee Hooker session.
Miked up to modern technology, Hooker's classic style, trance-like boogies, ruminative baritone and endlessly stomping foot, had never sounded so good or so fresh, and Hooker repaid the Heat's faith by bringing with him his best form for years. Whether on the hotter boogies like 'Send Me Your Pillow' and 'Meet Me In The Bottom,' or the cut-to-the-bone sorrowful 'Alimonia Blues' Hooker achieves some of the most intense performances of his recorded career.
While Hooker himself is the obvious hero of the sessions, the real revelation is Alan Wilson. Hooker was notoriously difficult to accompany, given as he was to playing eleven, thirteen, or fifteen bar blues as and when he felt like it, but Wilson - supplying harp, guitar and piano accompaniment - is here as lithe and intuitive a player as Hooker himself. "I dig this kid's harmonica," Hooker remarks at the beginning of one track. "I don't know how he follow me, but he do."
This is one of John Lee Hooker's best albums, which makes it, frankly, one of the high points of recorded blues. It didn't last long; Wilson died even before the album was mixed, and the downbeat cover features his black-edged portrait hanging on the wall of a hotel room. Record label ABC tried to reproduce the magic of the sessions by matching Hooker with a medley of Big Rock Names which succeeded only in showing how right Canned Heat had got it by just letting the Hook be the Hook.