HISTORICAL FIGURES & ANCIENT HEADS
(United Artists, USA)
I really miss Al Wilson. Canned Heat just isn’t the same without him. This time around Hite, Vestine and Company (now including Joel Scott Hill regularly, on rhythm guitar and occasional vocals) cast hither and yon around the Hollywood Hills and come up with various artists to jam with on selected cuts. Little Richard is shamefacedly resurrected on “Rockin’ With the King,” yet another chapter in his recent egocentric insensibility that never rises above the sophomoric lyrics and doesn’t even include a piano solo – Clifford Solomon is all over the place on saxophone, inexplicably. “I Don’t Care What You Tell Me” features the flute-playing of Charles Lloyd, sort of backed-up by Vestine and organist Kevin Burton. A lot of so-what doodling and forced dynamism is congealed but, in the end, why Charles Lloyd?
Historical Figure Number three, Harvey Mandel, however, works out just fine. In fact “That’s All Right” is one of the best tunes on this disc. Borrowed from veteran Chicago bluesman Jimmy Rogers and enhanced by Mandel’s wondrously fluttering lead guitarwork and Hill’s fully realized vocal, the result is what Canned Heat has always done the best – an up-tempo, boogie-beat blues. “Long Way From L.A.” and the extended “Utah” – the latter a deliberative and caustically tempered blues, featuring plenty of Vestine’s still-excellent guitar soloing – are this album’s other zeniths and, in the end, salvage this disc from excesses like the above-mentioned and “Cherokee Dance”, that is yet another un-exciting Canned Heat work-out with the Bo Diddley beat.
They evoke the lazy thrust of B.B. King quite well on the album-opener, “Sneakin’ Around”. Once again, it is Hill on the vocal and the band takes its time – Vestine playing some piercing, incisive guitar lines and Ernest Lane filling in, between a moody sax chorus, on piano. Vividly reminiscent of Heat’s work with blues veteran John Lee Hooker on the recent Hooker ‘N’ Heat album. Not much else to say about this release. The only tune I haven’t mentioned is “Hill’s Stomp”, a far better instrumental than their miasmic gesturing with Lloyd, but still a run-of-the-mill rave-up effect that was probably only included to demonstrate that “hell, Joel Scott Hill can play a little lead guitar too.”
For Canned Heat addicts only. All others would be better off purchasing Hooker ‘N’ Heat – one of the very few link-ups of a white blues band with the Real Thing that works, Incidentally, for cover-art devotees, the locale for the photograph was Nikolas Venet’s Manor – the same Nick Venet, I believe, that gave us the Beach Boys and Fred Neil and who owes me a letter. (RS 106)
Gary von Tersch – © Copyright 2000 Rolling Stone.com
Canned Heat have steadily built a reputation as being this country’s best “boogie-men” and this album further substantiates that claim. Their music cooks, sputters, boils, defying the listener to be still. Included is Little Richard’s tome to self-praise “Rockin’ With the King”, Jimmy Rogers’ “That’s All Right” and group penned “Utah”.
Originally reviewed for week ending 2/19/72
© 1999 Billboard and BPI Communications Inc.
(Source: BILLBOARD Website)