FRIENDS IN THE CAN - CD March/June 2003
(Ruf Records / Germany)
"Don't Forget To Boogie!" said Fito de la Parra (drums, vocals) band leader of Canned Heat. Canned Heat certainly haven't. Despite the untimely deaths of three members of the band - Alan (Blind Owl) Wilson in 1970, Bob (The Bear) Hite in 1981 and Henry Vestine in 1997, Heat have stayed true to their mid-60s roots and have cooked up regular servings of timeless boogie and blues. No one will ever forget their joyful scene-setting and era-defining Goin' Up The Country from the film Woodstock but - as is often the case when a band keeps on going - some albums are more memorable and satisfying than others. Friends In The Can is in the memorable and satisfying category.
It's a surprise package - it comes in a very collectable tin can. The German 1st edition from Ruf Records comes in a square one and the US version in a circular one. Inside is the music - driving boogie/ blues moved along by the band - now consisting of Stan Behrens (flute, saxophone, harmonica, vocals), Greg Kage (bass, vocals), Dallas Hodge (vocals, guitar), 'J.P.' John Paulus (guitar, slide-guitar) and the aforementioned Fito. Vocal and guitar leads are alternated between band members and some good friends and ex-band members (John Lee Hooker, Taj Mahal, Walter Trout, Corey Stevens), Robert Lucas, Henry Vestine, Harvey Mandel and Roy Rogers). Larry Taylor guests on upright bass and Mike Finnigan on organ.
There're some of the tastiest guitar solos I've heard in a long time - nothing really flamboyant, just straight-up quality with everyone and everything working together. It's a collaboration which celebrates 36 years of Canned Heat and pays tribute "to the band's major, musical influence ... John Lee Hooker" (listen to John Lee talking about Canned Heat on I'll Never Get Out Of These Blues Alive). There's their old favourite Let's Work Together (Wilbert Harrison), JLH's essential Little Wheel and plenty of original songs which sound like they've been around a long time. All wonderful stuff and bound to end up on my Top 20 list at the end of the year.
Spring 2003 - by NET RHYTHMS (UK)