January 15 – John Lee Hooker & Canned Heat

1/15/71: John Lee Hooker & Canned Heat – Hooker ‘n Heat

The past thirty or so years have brought us so many collaboration albums, they’ve almost become passé. Some have been quite commercially successful, while others seem rather unnecessary. The first collaboration album I recall owning is John Lee Hooker’s 1989 album The Healer, which includes the likes of Bonnie Raitt, Carlos Santana, Charlie Musselwhite, and surviving members of Canned Heat, among others. I don’t remember what made me buy it – I’d probably heard the outstanding title track with Santana – but I certainly wasn’t familiar with Hooker’s music (I plead being a teenager at the time). Subsequently I heard some of his classic recordings and was able to understand why The Healer made sense. But that wasn’t Hooker’s first collaboration. Twenty years prior, he teamed up with the classic Canned Heat lineup for one of the great joint efforts in the blues.

Hooker ‘n Heat, released 50 years ago today, was the final Canned Heat recording to feature harmonica player, guitarist, and songwriter Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson, who died the previous September between the album’s recording in May 1970 and its unveiling. His photo hangs on the wall behind the band on the album jacket. Canned Heat vocalist Bob Hite is credited as a producer and is present with the band on the cover, though he did not sing on the album. All the songs but one were written or co-written by Hooker, who is also the only featured vocalist.

To me, Hooker ‘n Heat is a perfect combination of styles. It doesn’t sound forced, which is due in part to the length of the album. There’s plenty of room for all involved. The first six tracks feature Hooker and his guitar unaccompanied, and it’s vintage John Lee Hooker. The main difference to my ears is the sound itself. It’s much more powerful than his early recordings, which alone doesn’t necessarily make it better than his music from the late 1940’s up to the 1960’s, just different. It sounds like I’m in an empty barroom with him in 1970. This of course makes sense because that’s also how Canned Heat’s studio albums sound – live. The studio chatter between tracks adds to the intimate, in-the-moment feel.

Canned Heat & John Lee Hooker HOOKER 'N HEAT - Liberty Records 1971 - USED  DOUBLE Vinyl LP Record - 1971 Pressing MCA-27005 - 17 Songs - Boogie  Chillen No.2 - Drifter - Let's Make It - Alimonia Blues - Amazon.com Music

Tracks seven through twelve are Hooker accompanied by Alan Wilson on various instruments. It’s fitting that this was Wilson’s final album considering his reverence for the original bluesmen. Along with American contemporaries such as Paul Butterfield and Mike Bloomfield, Wilson incorporated their influence into the music of the Woodstock Era just as Brian Jones, John Mayall and a well-documented number of other Brits did a few years earlier during the height of the British Invasion. The final five songs include all of Canned Heat (sans Hite), and the results are as loose as might be expected. Hooker ‘n Heat helped introduce JLH to a new audience as well as to begin to benefit financially from some of the great music he’d written but not been given songwriting credit for as a result of bad deals early on.

If it’s been a while or you’re unfamiliar with this album, grab a beverage of choice some Friday evening after work and crank it up.


Side One:

  1. Messin’ with the Hook
  2. The Feelin’ Is Gone
  3. Send Me Your Pillow
  4. Sittin’ Here Thinkin’
  5. Meet Me in the Bottom

Side Two:

  1. Alimonia Blues
  2. Drifter
  3. You Talk Too Much
  4. Burning Hell
  5. Bottle Up and Go

Side Three:

  1. The World Today
  2. I Got My Eyes on You
  3. Whiskey and Wimmen
  4. Just You and Me

Side Four:

  1. Let’s Make It
  2. Peavine
  3. Boogie Chillen No. 2





August 3 – The End of an Era for Canned Heat

8/3/70: Canned Heat – Future Blues

For two or three years around the turn of the 1970’s, a handful of artists stepped away from the trend of heavy, self-important music to record albums that get the listener up off the couch and into boogie mode. A couple days ago we turned the spotlight on Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs & Englishmen, which I described as loose and sounding like a party taking place on stage. That album had counterparts in the blues rock idiom at the time such as Delaney & Bonnie: On Tour with Eric Clapton and Canned Heat’s Future Blues, the latter released 50 years ago today.

6 - Canned Heat - Future Blues - D - 1970--- | Klaus Hiltscher | Flickr

Future Blues was the band’s fifth album, and the last to feature most of the classic lineup. Larry Taylor and Harvey Mandel left the group after its recording and just before its release. Co-founder Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson passed away a month after its release, an unfortunate founding member of the 27 Club.

Alan Wilson of Canned Heat - Rockers Who Died at Age 27

This is widely considered to be one of their best albums. Future Blues was to critic Robert Christgau what Life Cereal was to Mikey… The band eschewed the extended jams they were also known for, sticking with more concise tracks mostly under three minutes long. The whole thing clocks in under 36 minutes as originally released. Future Blues is also noted for its stylistic diversity, from 1940’s jump blues on Skat (with horns arranged by Dr. John), to the darker London Blues (featuring Dr. John on piano) and heavy guitar of its most well known track, Let’s Work Together. This is not to say it’s a dark album, not by a long shot.

Canned Heat - Titel & Alben : Napster

Favorite tracks of mine include the straight forward blues of Sugar Bee and So Sad, both sung by Bob Hite, Charlie Patton’s Shake It and Break It sung by the Blind Owl, Arthur Crudup’s That’s All Right, Mama with Hite’s gravely vocal, as well as Wilson’s rolling but eerily prophetic My Time Ain’t Long and John Lee Hooker-influenced London Blues. When I think of American bands from that time, the “Woodstock Era,” Canned heat is one of the first to come to mind. Their combination of blues n’ boogie was unmatched to my ears. The vocal styles of Bob Hite and Alan Wilson couldn’t have been much more different, yet it was unquestionably Canned Heat regardless of who sang or how long the track was.


Side One:

  1. Sugar Bee
  2. Shake it and Break it
  3. That’s All Right (Mama)
  4. My Time Ain’t Long
  5. Skat
  6. Let’s Work Together

Side Two:

  1. London Blues
  2. So Sad (The World’s in a Tangle)
  3. Future Blues




April 29 – Feeding My Music Habit During Quarantine, Pt. 1

Hi folks. How’s everyone holding up these days? Keeping busy with the extra time? Going stir-crazy? I’ve had difficulty maintaining my motivation to blog, but I think about it and my general theme pretty much daily. Today I thought I’d check in and share my music listening and learning activities from the past couple of months with the extra time I’ve had on my hands. Thanks to hanspostcard for the nudge.

I’m typically a homebody, so I really don’t mind spending a bit more time at the shack. However, the month of May was shaping up to be possibly the biggest singular month for attending live shows in my lifetime. On tap was a club show by the Jayhawks next week which has been rescheduled for December, then late in the month I have tickets for the James Taylor/Jackson Browne show in Ft. Worth followed a few days later by the Rolling Stones in Dallas. Thankfully they will also be rescheduled. Hopefully.

James Taylor Announces US Spring Tour With Jackson Browne

A few months back an acquaintance turned me on to abe.com. If you like to read and don’t mind used books, this is a great resource. It’s been a revelation for me, especially since my my ritual of visiting Half Price Books and Records once a week came to an abrupt if temporary end. You can find good titles at dirt cheap prices, often with no shipping cost. I’ve consistently maintained a “yet to read” stack of three to five books as a result. The following is an overview of the various music rabbit holes I’ve been exploring recently through CD’s, books, and video as I’ve taken a bit of a detour from my usual topic of 50th anniversaries of album releases. I suppose if there’s one binding theme in them, it’s American roots music and culture.

I’d imagine most fans of rock-n-roll are at least somewhat familiar with the influence of blues and folk music from the South, especially the Mississippi Delta. But beyond a cursory knowledge and owning a few albums by Robert Johnson, Lightnin’ Hopkins and other contemporaries of theirs, I decided it was way past time to read a little more in depth about early blues music. I did a search of the more highly regarded books and decided on three for now, all of which cover different aspects of the blues. I’ve provided links for further information at the bottom of this post.

Muddy Waters – At Newport (1960) | Blues music, Muddy waters ...

In The Land Where the Blues Began (1970), American ethnomusicologist/folklorist Alan Lomax wrote of his field studies in the Delta region in the 1930’s and 40’s in a lengthy project underwritten by the Library of Congress. In it he shares stories of having to gain permission from local sheriffs, wardens, and plantation owners to speak to the local black musicians, preachers, laborers, and prisoners at the levee camps, prisons, churches, juke joints, etc. about their experiences which formed their world, and thus their music. Lomax also directed an hour long documentary of the same title in 1979, a rough copy of which can currently be found on YouTube.

The Land Where the Blues Began: Lomax, Alan: 9781565847392: Amazon ...

Paul Oliver’s The Blues Fell This Morning (1960) is one of the earliest accounts of what is actually meant by the lyrics and themes of blues songs, which he sourced from his his vast collection of 78 rpm “race records,” many quite obscure, dating back to the 1920’s. Oliver was a white British historian who hadn’t even set foot in America when he published this book, but his credentials were bolstered by the famous African American writer Richard Wright, who contributed the forward. To me, these latter aspects make the book itself historical and interesting. Rounding out my Blues Education 101 trilogy is Robert Palmer’s Deep Blues (1982), which arrived in my mailbox yesterday afternoon, beautifully mangled by its previous owner(s) (That really isn’t a complaint – it cost maybe $3). I anticipate this book to be an account of the actual musicians from Robert Johnson to Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, etc. and the migration of musicians and music from the Deep South to the northern industrial centers, especially Chicago.

Blues Fell This Morning: Meaning in the Blues: Paul Oliver ...      Deep Blues: A Musical and Cultural History of the Mississippi ...

I suppose in a positive development in terms of my impulse to write, I’m going to cut this short and break it up into one or two more entries lest I ramble on a little too long. Thanks for stopping by.