Tuesday, January 02, 2007

John Lee Hooker - Hooker (Shout Factory, 2006)

This lavish boxed set is the first attempt to provide a comprehensive survey of John Lee Hooker's lengthy career. Hooker was active for more than 50 years, and in the early years recorded under a variety of pseudonyms so this is quite a daunting task. The first couple of CDs cover the early groundbreaking solo recordings he made for labels like Modern where his ominously pounding foot and over-amped guitar propel classics like "Boogie Chillun" and "Let Your Daddy Ride." Slowly expanding his band to include second guitar (usually Eddie Burns) and drums he moved on to Vee-Jay and Chess for the blasting "Mad Man Blues" and deep down in the alley for "Tupelo Blues." After years toiling on the blues circuit, the blues revival found him touring around the world as the "king of the boogie" and disc three shows him recording with the blues-rock band Canned Heat on "Burning Hell" and waxing his immortal ode to alcoholism, "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer." The final disc shows the elder statesman/lion in winter recording with a variety of blues and rock luminaries most successfully a simpatico relationship with Van Morrison that produced two gems, "I Cover the Waterfront" and "Don't Look Back." The liner notes and discographical information is very good with nice essays and photographs. Longtime Hooker collectors will have most of this music already, but those looking for an overview of the great musician's entire career should be pleased.

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