Another solid live album by Mr. Lee. He was in his environment on stage and he was a great rock and roll guitar player…
I briefly met Alvin Lee back in 1970 after his group, Ten Years After, played a rather problematic gig in Harrisburg, PA. The band had suffered from an intermittent house sound system, and Lee was proposing to his road manager that the group no longer rely on what was available in each city. He thought that TYA should bring its own equipment from then on. I never found out the result of that discussion, but was happy to pose for photos with Mr. Lee.
Released in 1991 on Pointblank, this audiophile treat finds the 'Hook in some very special company. Co-producers Roy Rogers, Ry Cooder and Carlos Santana (who all contribute musically on this title as well) persuaded the likes of Albert Collins, Robert Cray, John Hammond, Johnnie Johnson, Van Morrison, Keith Richards, Nick Lowe and Johnny Winter among others to join in and the result is one terrific record. This original analog recording is beautifully recorded and a highlight to the ump-teenth rejuvenation in the 'Hooks career.
This four-disc box from London's JSP Records collects an astounding 100 songs recorded by John Lee Hooker in Detroit from the years 1948 to 1952, including his first two sides ever, the signature tunes "Boogie Chillen" and "Sally Mae." Most of the tracks here are done solo, with Hooker's ever-present foot-stomping, although a few feature other musicians on loose-limbed blues boogies. Since Hooker never significantly altered his style during his long career, these first recordings set the stage for all that came after, and he arguably never sounded fresher or better. Four discs worth of this throwback Mississippi bluesman will be severe overkill for casual listeners, but diehard Hooker fans will find this box set absolutely essential.
One of his finest '90s recordings, Chill Out balances the guitar-glitz of Carlos Santana's guest shot on the karmic title cut with a handful of profoundly deep Hooker solo performances. Among those are new versions of his standards "Tupelo" and "Annie Mae," and the soulful "If You've Never Been in Love," where expert slide-man Roy Rogers provides subtle accompaniment to Hooker's spontaneous storytelling. The band numbers that bookend the album are weak, relying on Hooker's strong vocal presence to overcome sketchy writing. Van Morrison, pianist Charles Brown, and M.G.'s leader Booker T. Jones also lend a hand. But Hooker doesn't need anybody's help to get to the passionate heart of his blues. One last note: Anton Corbijn's CD-booklet photographs of ol' Johnny Lee are terrific.
Produced by Hooker's slide guitarist Roy Rogers–who knows what's right for him–this is Hooker's best 1990s effort. Rogers guides him through arrangements that recapture his past glories ("Boom Boom," with guest Jimmie Vaughan), sets him up for a giddy jam with the late Telecaster master Albert Collins ("Boogie at Russian Hill"), and teams him with Charlie Musselwhite for the guitar-voice-harmonica duet "Thought I Heard"–a performance as sad and eerie as disembodied moans in a Delta graveyard. There's also Hooker's first recorded performance on National steel guitar, the solo "Hittin' the Bottle Again". This album gets right to the heart of Hooker's music and stays there. A blues-lover's delight.
Reissue with the latest remastering and the original cover artwork. Comes with a description written in Japanese. Trumpeter Steve Gut's on the frontline here alongside the legendary Clark Terry and the great Dusko Goykovich – and the younger musician really manages to hold his own, and work well with the two master trumpeters! The setting is a larger group – the RTB Big Band – and all three players get a chance to solo – and the mighty Alvin Queen is in the group on drums, providing a soulful kick that maybe makes the album sparkle a bit more than usual for the RTB – although they've always had a great legacy of work with bigger name players, especially American ones. Titles include "Mr CT", "Black Triangle", "Stemi", "Summer Afternoon", "On The Road", "Some Memories", and "Blues To Clark".