Friday, June 11, 2010

Michael Fremer Album Review

John Lee Hooker and Canned Heat (reissue)
Hooker 'n Heat

Liberty/pure pleasure PPAN LST-35002 2 180g LPs

Produced by: Skip Taylor and Robert Hite, Jr.
Engineered by: Dino Lappas
Mixed by: Martin Birch and Robert Zimbler
Mastered by: Sean Magee at Abbey Road Studios

Review by: Michael Fremer

The first two sides of this double record set spotlight Hooker, his incendiary, coiled-snake stinging guitar, his foot stomping, mutable time-keeping and his chant-like, mournful singing all recorded intimately. Canned Heat co-founder Al Wilson contributes harmonica and piano on some of the tunes that are otherwise all Hooker.

On most songs the engineer puts Hooker in one channel, his guitar in the other and his foot in the center and you won’t know which to fixate upon and that includes the foot. When Wilson joins in, he’s center stage too, the harmonica bathed in reverb and therefore inhabiting a wet space somewhere other than from where Hooker plays.

Having Hooker playing and singing live and putting his guitar in effect ten feet from his voice produces an unrealistic but entertaining and useful perspective. You can zone out the voice and listen to Hooker’s adrenaline-charged guitar, appreciating the complexity he wrings from seemingly simple and familiar riffs, most of which he invented and everyone else copied.

A fierce, agitated intensity and an almost religious fervor you just don’t seem to hear anymore jump from Hooker as he chugs his way through these basic tunes. Van Morrison resonates with a similar jumpy edge. No wonder he grew up a big fan. Hooker’s song “You Talk Too Much” doesn’t go much beyond the four words except at the end where he closes it out with “Shut up.”

A few more collaborations with Wilson begin side three and then finally Canned Heat comes in for the final five tunes, ending with signature “Boogie Chillen NO. 2.”

Hooker improvises a song describing the state of the world 1970. About the young people, change, race relations, the war in Vietnam and the need for the old generation to pass away in order for there to be an end to the conflicts unsettling the world. It didn’t exactly turn out that way but the sentiment was sweet.

The hotel room cover captures the intimacy of the sonics. The recording sounds as if it was recorded in a small room like that but the inside shows you the studio recording session.

The between song patter with the recording booth serves to document the recording process: Hooker was hired for a performance that would be recorded. He was on the clock or so it sounded. Wilson and the band would be added to some tunes, but in no way was this a cooperative, collaborative effort. It was Canned Heat going for a thrill ride.

It’s pure music making of the simplest yet most complex kind, simply and purely recorded. I have to admit I was either too stupid or too frozen to appreciate this when this was first issued in 1970. I’d heard all of this kind of thing before, I thought, as a kid and so dismissed it looking for new thrills. But clearly I wasn’t listening. Al Wilson died shortly after this was recorded. Hooker lived long enough to see his career resurrected yet again as he hit old age. He kept boogie-ing until the end, attracting yet another generation of kids to his particularly visceral place in the sun. Highly recommended.

Thanks to Michael over at  for the exclusive rights to reprint this material.

Copyright © 2008 & Michael Fremer - All rights reserved Reprinted by Permission

Pied Piper Singer Crispian St. Peters Passes Away at 71

Crispian St. Peters, the singer who took the song "Pied Piper" to the top ten in 1966, has passed away at the age of 71. While no cause of death was announced, it is known that he had been a long-time sufferer of Emphysema and had been on permanent oxygen for some time.

St. Peters was born in Kent, England as Robin Peter Smith and originally played in a number of local bands including the Two Tones, the Country Gentlemen and Beat Formula Three. He broke away in 1965 when manager Dave Nicholson saw promise and changed directions to a folk-rock sound. Crispian signed with Decca Records and, after a few unsuccessful releases, he came upon the Ian & Sylvia song You Were On My Mind. Already a big hit for the We Five in the U.S., he and Nicholson recorded a slightly slower version. The song took off in the U.K., peaking at number 2 in early 1966.

With the hit came a great deal of focus by the press and St. Peters started to make outlandish statements to get publicity, including a statement that the Beatles were "past it" and that he was a better singer than Elvis Presley and more exciting than Tom Jones.

At first, the statements kept him in the public eye and he followed up his initial success with the single The Pied Piper which went to number 5 in the U.K and number 4 in the U.S. Unfortunately, his outlandish comments in the press and a lack of musical identity sank his chances of another hit on either side of the Atlantic.

In 1968, he tried to move to country music with no success and has since been a fixture on the British oldies circuit along with occasionally reentering the recording studio with his band Old Crow. Over the years, he suffered three nervous breakdowns, a stroke, a divorce and the emphysema that may have taken his life.


This Date In Music History - June 11


Joseph DiNicola - Joey and the Starlighters (1940) (Jimi Hendrix was a member of the band during 1964).

John Lawton - Uriah Heep (1946)

Glenn Leonard - Temptations (1947)

Alan Skipper - Pretty Things (1948)

Bonnie Pointer - Pointer Sisters (1951)

Connie Van Zandt - .38 Special (1952)

Frank Beard (ironically, the one without the beard) - ZZ Top (1949)

Robert Birch - Stereo MC's (1961)

Dan Lavery - Tonic (1969)

They Are Missed:

The late James "Pookie" Hudson, lead singer of the Spaniels ("Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight") was born in 1934.


The Ink Spots recorded "Maybe" in 1940.

In 1949, Hank Williams made his debut at the 'Grand Ole Opry' in Nashville and received an unprecedented total of six encores.

Elvis Presley's "Teddy Bear/Loving You" single was released in 1957.

In 1962, the Beatles recorded a BBC radio program, "Here We Go", at the Playhouse Theatre in Manchester, in front of a studio audience composed largely of loyal Cavern fans. This was the last recording on which Pete Best played drums.

In 1964, Chicago police broke up a Rolling Stones "press conference" in the middle of Michigan Avenue.

Manfred Mann recorded "Do Wah Diddy" in 1964.

The Rolling Stones released the album "Got Live If You Want It" in 1965.

The British government announced in 1965 that the Beatles will receive the MBE (Members of the British Empire) Award. Some conservative MBE holders grumble that the it shouldn’t go to a bunch of Rock ‘n’ Rollers and turn in their awards. The Beatles get their MBEs just the same. After all, they about single-handedly saved the British economy. Later, John Lennon returns his award to protest the British government’s support of the war in Vietnam.

Janis Joplin debuted on stage at the Avalon ballroom in San Francisco in 1966.

The Rolling Stones started a two week run at #1 on the US singles chart in 1966 with "Paint It Black," the group's third US #1 single (also a #1 in the UK)..

Also in 1966, European radio stations mistakenly report that The Who's lead singer Roger Daltrey is dead. Actually, it was guitarist Pete Townshend who had been injured in a car accident a few days earlier.

Working late at the Abbey Road studios in London on The White Album in 1968, John Lennon worked on ‘Revolution 9’ in studio 3, while Paul McCartney recorded ‘Blackbird’ in studio 2.

A fire in a London record studio interrupts the Rolling Stones' recording of their "Beggar's Banquet" album there, 1968

David Bowie's single, "Space Oddity," was released in 1969 to coincide with the first lunar landing.

Today in 1977, the song "I'm Your Boogie Man" by K. C. & the Sunshine Band topped the charts and stayed there for a week.

The Rolling Stones released "Some Girls" in 1978.

In 1988, Nelson Mandellas 70th birthday tribute took place at Wembley Stadium, London, featuring Whitney Houston, Phil Collins, Dire Straits, Stevie Wonder, Tracy Chapman, George Michael, Eric Clapton, UB40, The Eurythmics and Simple Minds. The event was broadcast live on BBC 2 to 40 different countries with an estimated audience of 1 billion.

A Metallica concert at a small club in San Francisco was broadcast live via the Internet in 1996.

Aaliyah went to #1 on the US singles chart in 2000 with "Try Again." It became the first "airplay-only" song to reach #1 on the US singles chart (no points from a commercial single release).

This weeks Top 3 US album chart in 2000; Eminem, 'The Marshall Mathers LP' at #1. Kid Rock, 'The History Of Rock' at #2 and Britney Spears, 'Oops!...I Did It Again' at #3.

The live Bee Gees album "One Night Only" was released on CD in 2002.

In 2001, Sir Paul McCartney married Heather Mills at St Salvator Church, Ireland. Guests included Ringo Starr, David Gilmour, Jools Holland and Chrissie Hynde. Heather walked down the aisle clutching a bouquet of 11 'McCartney' roses.

Courtney Love surrendered to US police in 2004 after allegedly assaulting a woman at the home of her former manager and ex-boyfriend. Ms Love was charged with assault with a deadly weapon. She was later released on bail. The charges related to an incident on 25 April 2004, when Ms Love allegedly assaulted a woman with a bottle and a torch at the LA home of Jim Barber.

In 2005, Jimmy Page, Led Zeppelin founding member and guitarist, was awarded an OBE in the Queen of England's Birthday Honours list and Queen guitarist and founding member Brian May was awarded a CBE.

In 2008, the American Federation of Musicians filed a federal lawsuit against the producers of American Idol, claiming musicians were underpaid because the show’s live music was re-recorded for re-runs. The union filed the suit seeking unspecified damages in the US District Court in Los Angeles, alleging that American Idol Productions Inc. and its subsidiary Tick Tock Productions Inc. violated a collective bargaining agreement.

Disturbed's "Indestructible" debuts at #1 on the Billboard 200 chart in 2008. Selling 252,000 copies in its first week the album marks the third straight time the group has topped the survey.