THE NEW AGE - LP 1973
(United Artists, USA)
Hey, kids and bluesbusterbrowns of all ages, guess who's back? No, not the Plaster Casters Blues Band - it's Canned Heat! The originators of Boogie in the flesh! And it sure is refreshing to see 'em too, what with all these jive-ass MOR pseud-dudes like John Lee Hooker ripping off their great primal riffs and milking 'em dry.
How did we love Canned Heat? Let's count the ways. We loved 'em because they scooped out a whole new wrinkle in the monotone mazurka; it wasn't their fault that a whole generation of ten zillion bands took it and ran it into the ground sans finesse after Canned Heat had run it into the ground so damned good themselves. We loved 'em because they've always held the record for Longest Single Boogie Preserved on Wax: "Refried Boogie" from Livin' The Blues was 40-plus minutes of real raunch froth perfect for parties or car stereos, especially if they got ripped off - and a lot of it was even actually listenable. We loved 'em because Henry Vestine was an incredible, scorching motherfucker of a guitarist, knocking you through the wall. And we loved 'em because Bobby Bear was so damned weird you could abide his every excess.
But Canned Heat disappeared from the sets for awhile there, just sorta flapped up and boogied into the zone and what was really sad was that nobody missed 'em. Even though they were always real fine journeymen, they never made a wholly and entirely good album, of course, but they've consistently had their moments. And The New Age, which of course is no new age at all, has just as many of 'em as any of the others. There's "Keep It Clean", a happy highho funk churn like unto their cover of Wilbert Harrison's "Let's Work Together", which means it could very well be hitbound. There's "Rock 'n' Roll Music", Bear Hite's obligattortilla in deference to the traditions, his utter lack of imagination, and all that. He's been listening to some old New Orleans R&B this time, so it's OK even if he does still sing like a scalped guppy.
"Framed" is just a reprise in new drag of their classic about being busted in Denver that was on Boogie with Canned Heat, and that was just a new-drag on old Bo Diddley and "Jailbait" riffs. "Election Blues" is the required slow blues chest retch. "So Long Wrong" is one more low down blackboned gutgrok funk-lurking album-closer boogie just like lotsa their other yester highlights. Vestine still knows how to play so's to make you feel like ringworms are St. Vitusing in your heartburn, and Hite scrapes your intestines widdat bass good as Mole Taylor ever did. "Lookin for My Rainbow" even has Clara Ward and her jive bombers just for a tintype taste of authenticity, but it's boring as old View Master slides and most of the rest of the songs are just some kinda nondescript clinkletybonk tibia-rattling in pursuit of yeehah countryisms so let 'em dry rot in the grooves.
Buy this album if you've gotta lotta money or don't care much what you blow your wad on, but don't pass up any of the really cosmic stuff like the Stooges for it or the shadow of Blind Lemon Jefferson will come and blow his nose on your brow every night. (RS 136)
Lester Bangs - © Copyright 2000 Rolling Stone.com
Good blues-rock mix from veteran group. Best cuts: "Framed", "Keep It Clean".
Originally reviewed for week ending 3/24/73
© 1999 Billboard and BPI Communications Inc.
(Source: BILLBOARD Website)