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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Canned Heat: Live In Europe


1) That's All Right Mama; 2) Bring It On Home; 3) Pulling Hair Blues; 4) Medley: Back Out On The Road / On The Road Again; 5) London Blues; 6) Let's Work Together; 7) Goodbye For Now.

I have learned not to trust any datings for Canned Heat albums past 1969 (due to the band's con­voluted history combined with their relatively «minor» status, they tend to be quite contradic­tory), but it does look like this concert record was indeed released in 1970, though it is not quite clear if that was still before or already after Wilson's death. Regardless, he is definitely here on the album, along with Harvey Mandel, and some sources state that it was largely recorded at the Royal Albert Hall in April 1970 (more likely, in January 1970, because from The Bear's announcements at the end it ensues that they were headlining after Deep Purple and Renaissance, and Deep Purple only played the RAH in January), along with other venues (not sure which ones), so I suppose that, un­like the next live album, this one was probably at least in the plans before Wilson's passing.

What was also in the plans, I guess, was to present the band as one with the audience: a pretty good chunk of the record is taken over by Hite's and the other members' friendly chat with front row enthusiasts, sometimes in a manner as innocent as The Bear asking "you got any acid?", or proposing to do his Jim Morrison impression (hard to tell from the level of laughter if the impres­sion really made much of an impression or not), and sometimes while bringing strange guests up on stage (no idea whatsoever who "The Rag Queen" is, appearing right before the final number), you know, just to show that it's more than just about the music and the band and all.

But while I do appreciate the brotherly spirit (a glimpse of which you can actually catch in the Woodstock movie, when a fan climbs up on stage in the middle of the performance and nabs a pack of cigarettes right from The Bear's front pocket — not something that either Keith Richards or Pete Townshend would tolerate, I guess), the music still means more to me, and this particular bunch of performances is not that great, unfortunately, even by the band's own modest standards. Mandel, in particular, seems relatively tame throughout, digging his slow-burning psychedelic tones but almost never stepping out in front; and Wilson is brought to the forefront only on two generic 12-bar blues numbers, which does not allow him to make great use of his voice.

It does not help matters much, either, that ʽPulling Hair Bluesʼ is a nine-minute drag where the only instruments are Larry Taylor's bass and Wilson's harmonica (perhaps John Entwistle could hold your attention with nine minutes of pure bass guitar, but Larry Taylor is just not that good); that ʽOn The Road Againʼ is recast here as a rather wimpy funk jam with none of the ominous rattle and hum of the studio original; or that their brave take on Sonny Boy Williamson's ʽBring It On Homeʼ may feel far more loyal to the original than Zeppelin's version, but is far less deserving of a special memory cell. In the end, strange enough, the best performance on the entire album turns out to be the show-ending rendition of ʽLet's Work Togetherʼ, elongated in comparison to the studio version with some extra and far more badass soloes — Wilson plays a beautiful slide part, Mandel counterattacks with nasty distorted electric stuff, and the whole thing plays out its part to perfection as a final anthem to complete the unification process between audience and band, without forgetting the individual talents of the band's members either.

Other than that, it's all perfectly listenable, but somehow the level of energy is simply not the same as it used to be with Vestine — I'd take a single 40-minute ʽRefried Boogieʼ over this album in its entirety, easily. It is also hardly coincidental that their next live release, despite being clearly pulled from the archives, would turn out to be far superior. It is also ironic that at that date, they could still be the headliners in a show that included Deep Purple as an opening act — a situ­ation that would be reversed very, very soon...

1 comment:

  1. I cannot help picturing a fan climbing the stage to take something from Blackmore's pocket ....