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Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Canned Heat: Vintage


1) Spoonful; 2) Big Road Blues; 3) Rollin' And Tumblin'; 4) Got My Mojo Working; 5) Pretty Thing; 6) Louise; 7) Dimples; 8) Can't Hold On Much Longer; 9) Straight Ahead; 10) Rollin' And Tumblin' (with harmonica).

Just as the band seemed to be getting its shit back together (Mandel and Taylor quit, but Ves­tine returned, and the new reinvigorated band guest-starred on the double album Hooker 'n' Heat, backing their primary guru and idol, without whose ʽBoogie Chillenʼ they wouldn't have been able to handle their 40-minute long jams), anyway, just as things were beginning to get back to right, all of a sudden they went as wrong as they could ever go: Alan Wilson died on September 3, 1970, from a barbiturate overdose. Just to clarify things: this was about two weeks before Jimi and a whole month before Janis, but yes, the man was 27 years old at the time, and his death did set up a regular string of Woodstock hero deaths, so...

...anyway, I'm not altogether sure if this Vintage album was released before Wilson's death, as a separate vault-cleaning activity, or after, which would make more sense — as a hastily assembled tribute from all his friends in the band. Because, honestly, this is not a good album. What we have here is a set of predictable blues and R&B covers, all recorded way back in 1966, unimaginative, poorly produced, and played with as much energy, technique, and interest as you'd expect from any band of total beginners. Although, apparently, Wilson and Vestine are already handling all the guitar duties themselves, at this point they seem to be simply emulating their Chicago heroes, with the guitars simply reproducing all the licks from those old Fifties' records rather than trying to update them to newer standards. (Clearly, this is a sound of a band that had yet to witness God... uh, I mean, Jimi, in action. Come to think of it, in 1966 they probably hadn't yet had the chance to hear the original God, i.e. Eric, either).

Really, all the material is quite weak, «and such small portions», to quote Woody — the whole thing is over in less than 25 minutes, including two early versions of ʽBig Road Bluesʼ (one of them surreptitiously retitled ʽStraight Aheadʼ), and two versions of ʽRollin' And Tumblin'ʼ (with and without harmonica). And no, they don't do this stuff better than Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Elmore James, Bo Diddley, and John Lee Hooker. But, once again, as a quick on-the-spot memo­rial to Alan Wilson, I guess it sort of works. The record still gets a thumbs down, though, be­cause, as sorry as I am for the early death of Mr. Wilson, I don't think any of these tracks could hold a particularly sentimental value to anybody other than the actual band members.

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