Monday, January 11, 2010

Canned HEAT - Vintage 1970

Canned HEAT - Vintage 1970
1975 Issue. BI 15164 / JLS-3009
Recorded in 1966 but not released before 1970


This is actually a CD repackage of the 1966 recordings that appeared back in 1970 on the Janus LP Vintage Canned Heat. Produced by Johnny Otis, this was the group in their early formative stage with the lineup that would play on their official 1967 debut album: Bob Hite, Alan Wilson, Henry Vestine, Larry Taylor, and Frank Cook. All but two of the songs are covers of well-worn blues staples, mostly from the classic electric Chess catalog, including "Spoonful," "Rollin' and Tumblin'," "Pretty Thing," "Got My Mojo Working," and "Louise," with John Lee Hooker's "Dimples" as well. Though more basic and tentative and than the late-'60s recordings for which they're well known, these are pretty brisk, concise performances that mark Canned Heat as one of the few enduring white American blues-rock bands of the era. Indeed, this lacks the jam-prone bombast that afflicted many of their famous releases, and even those who dismiss their familiar stuff for that reason might find themselves enjoying this. One of the two group originals, "Straight Head," sounds like they might have been trying, if just slightly, to aim a little closer to the pop market in the manner of some of the tracks recorded around the same time by the Rising Sons (the L.A. folk-rock/blues group with Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder). It's only 24 minutes long, and one song, "Rollin' and Tumblin'," is presented twice (once with harmonica, once without), but it's a worthy archival collection.
By Richie Unterberger, All Music Guide.
Recorded well before the free-flowing, psychedelic R&B of the Woodstock favorite "Going Up the Country," or the sinister, shimmering "On the Road Again," these mid-1960s studio tracks feature the prototypical boogie blues band Canned Heat in ...    Full Descriptionits infancy (though already with the line-up that included the guitar master "Blind" Al Wilson, which would see it through its most popular years). Blues classics like Willie Dixon's "Spoonful" and John Lee Hooker's "Dimples" display the Heat's youthful energy and enthusiasm; the legendary R&B bandleader and impresario Johnny Otis produces.

These are the earliest-known recordings of Canned Heat with the primordial lineup of ***Alan "Blind Owl" Wilson (guitar/harmonica/vocals), Stuart Brotman (bass), Henry "Sunflower" Vestine (guitar), Bob "The Bear" Hite (vocals), and either Keith Sawyer (drums), or perhaps his replacement, Frank Cook (drums),*** who joined circa 1966. Another notable name among the personnel listed on the original LP jacket is rhythm & blues legend, Johnny Otis as producer. This is certainly fitting, as the Heat wind their way through compact, high-energy versions of a variety of selections, directly contrasting the longer psychedelic showcases that would evolve over the next few years. Their almost cerebral respect for their predecessors would have suggested that the band hailed from anywhere other than their Topanga Canyon digs. However, Wilson, Vestine, and Hite were consummate students of authentic R&B, as evidenced by their practically note-for-note transcriptions of tunes from Chicago icons such as Muddy Waters ("Got My Mojo Working"), Willie Dixon ("Spoonful" and "Pretty Thing"), John Lee Hooker ("Louise" and "Dimples"), and Elmore James ("Rollin' and Tumblin'.") The latter cut is actually presented in two distinct renderings -- with and without Wilson's hard-hitting harmonica leads, closely resembling the sound of their self-titled debut, Canned Heat (1967) from the following year. A second holdover is "Big Road Blues," which is also given a similar driving beat and an otherwise solid reading. These sessions have surfaced on an endless array of reissues including Don't Forget to Boogie: Vintage Heat (2002), Vintage Canned Heat [Sundazed] (1996), or paired with a 1969 concert platter on the Akarma Records double-play Live at the Topanga Corral/Vintage (2002). [Lilith's 2007 edition included one bonus track.] ~ Lindsay Planer

Before hitting the charts in 1968 with their version of Jim Oden's "On The Road Again" (#20 in the USA, # 10 in the UK), here is how they sounded in 1966 when R&B pioneer Johnny Otis produced their first recordings.
Alan "Blind Owl" Wilson- Guitar- Harmonica, Vocals
Larry Taylor- Bass
Frank Cook- Drums
Bob Hite- Vocals
A1. Spoonful   2:25
A2. Big Road Blues   2:01
A3. Rolling And Tumbling   2:10
A4. Got My Mojo Working   2:36
A5. Pretty Thing   1:49
B1. Louise   2:35
B2. Dimples   2:35
B3. Can't Hold on Much Longer...   2:15
B4. Straight Ahead   2:30
B5. Rolling And Tumbling (With Harmonica)   2:16

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