CANNED HEAT BLUES BAND
(Ruf Records, Germany / Mystic, UK)
A little tear came to my eye when the editor brought me a stack of CDs. There at the top was Canned Heat – the boogie band that peaked my interest in R&B, gulp, 30 years ago.
“Could this be the same band? I mean, aren’t they all dead?” I asked him. He shook his head, told me three of the original members are on the album and to have fun. And I did.
Singer Bob Hite, guitarists Alan Wilson and, recently, Henry Vestine, have gone to their reward, but the rhythm section of drummer Fito de la Parra and acoustic bassist Larry Taylor remains. And that’s one fine engine to have in your band and it boogies better than ever. The new Heat has slide guitarist/harp player Robert Lucas on vocals, Greg Kage on electric bass and lead guitarist Junior Watson has been a Canned Heat-er for a while now. Vestine, who died in December of ’97, made this his last work, playing on every cut and his sound remained distinctive to the end.
The Canned Heat of the late ’90s is pretty good and so’s the album, if you can look at them with a fresh eye and not with 1968-vision. The band that played Woodstock was magic and unique in their time. The new Heat isn’t magic, but it is a better-than-average blues band doing a good job of keeping the franchise boogying.
Lucas adds some energy with his slide playing, singing and original songs, but to be honest, the originals are only average at best. A version of Elmore James “Stranger” is excellent and a great opener for the CD, but I winced when I saw they had re-done Canned Heat classics “Going Up the Country” acoustically, “Boogie Music” and “One Kind Favor” here. But darned if they didn’t pull em off and in the process, saved the album.
I don’t know what the plans are for this band. They’ll probably stay together in some form or fashion forever. They remain popular in Europe and still have their fans stateside.
Give this one a listen. They brought a smile to my face and revived some great memories. I want to hear more from them.
Jack Clifford, MemphisMojo – August 1998
An outfit with deep blues/rock roots is Canned Heat Blues Band. Three members who date back to the 1960s version of the band, drummer Fito de la Parra, lead guitarist Henry “The Sunflower” Vestine, and bassist Larry “The Mole” Taylor, are on this latest self-titled disc on Ruf Records. They’re joined by Robert Lucas on guitar, harmonica, and vocals, Junior Watson on lead guitar, and Greg Kage on electric bass. This CD contains no big surprises, and is kind of what you’d expect from Canned Heat. If you miss the 60s, then take a listen to “Boogie Music,” which has a real feel of that wacky decade to it. The band also does an acoustic version of the Alan Wilson/Canned Heat standard “Going Up The Country”, with good slide guitar and raspy vocals from Lucas. By the way, this session constituted the last recordings by Vestine, who died in Paris late last year.
Bill Mitchell, Blues Bytes – August 1998