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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Canned Heat: Boogie 2000

CANNED HEAT: BOOGIE 2000 (2000)

1) Wait And See; 2) Last Man; 3) World Of Make Believe; 4) Dark Clouds; 5) Searchin' For My Baby; 6) I Got Loaded; 7) Too Much Giddyup; 8) She Split; 9) 2000 Reasons (Y2K Blues); 10) Road To Rio; 11) Can I Come Home?; 12) I'm So Tired.

If you only want one reliable taster of what it was like to call yourself «Canned Heat» after every­body who ever made a difference in the original band had passed away, you might just as well go along with Boogie 2000. It's just such a nice little record — nothing particularly special, nothing whatsoever to make you raise an eyebrow, but it's just done so damn well, I couldn't really think of where to begin to voice any specific complaints.

Sure, just as always, it's just straightahead blues and blues-rock, with not a single original melody in sight. They can write «Music by A. de la Parra and friends» for all they like, but we know, don't we, that ʽLast Manʼ is simply ʽLet's Work Togetherʼ with new lyrics, and that ʽToo Much Giddyupʼ rides the blues train of ʽMilk Cow Bluesʼ, and that ʽ2000 Reasons (Y2K Blues)ʼ is just a mix of ʽSweet Home Chicagoʼ with ʽDust My Broomʼ, and the list goes on. There's no new music written here — period, end of story. But above and beyond that, this particular lineup of late period Canned Heat, reduced to a hardcore quartet of de la Parra, Taylor, Kage on bass and Lucas on guitar, gives arguably the tightest, leanest, and most energetic show of blues-rock fun, grit, and (a little) nostalgia that could ever be expected.

There's just something about the way they crash-boom-bang into the album with ʽWait And Seeʼ, a Fats Domino number with a guest flautist and a guest saxophonist, the former bringing on inescapable echoes of ʽGoing Up The Countryʼ and the latter laying on a good New Orleanian vibe. The rhythm section is tight as a tick, Lucas gives a soulfully humorous vocal performance, and Skip Taylor's production delineates and emphasizes each instrument to perfection. It's like a textbook case of how to treat a cover song if you lack imagination, but compensate for this with verve and dedication. The only thing that is missing is a great lead guitar part — but this comes with the next track, where, on ʽLast Manʼ, Lucas throws his slide playing talents into the pot: the solos here are even more fluent, ecstatic, and note-perfect than on the previous album, putting the man (almost) on the level of... Dickey Betts, for instance — he'd be a good competitive addition to The Great Southern at least, if not necessarily to the Allmans.

Another bit of saving grace is the ongoing diversity. They have a bit of comic blues (Har­rison Nelson's ʽI Got Loadedʼ), a bit of real old school jump blues (ʽShe Splitʼ), a soul cover (ʽSear­chin' For My Babyʼ), an odd jump into Latin territory (ʽWorld Of Make Believeʼ), and at least one track with more of a ZZ Top-style Texan rock sound (ʽRoad To Rioʼ, where you almost expect Billy Gibbons to crop up at any moment). No, no baroque pop or death metal, but let us not be pushing it — these guys would be the first to admit they're happy with clinging to a for­mula, yet even within that formula, there's plenty of ground to cover, and they are not interested in merely doing one stereotypical 12-bar tune after another. Instead, they're laying down all the stereotypes, and having their way with each of them.

I guess the record peters out a little near the end: instead of the slow, harmonica-heavy ʽI'm So Tiredʼ, they should have had another kick-ass rocker to wind things down on the same exuberant note on which they started it (and ʽI'm So Tiredʼ doesn't even sound all that tired!). Also, I am not at all fond of Greg Kage's singing voice — next to Lucas', it's kinda colorless in comparison, and detracts from the overall enjoyment of such powerful tunes as ʽToo Much Giddyupʼ (which is still heavily recommendable because of more top-notch sliding from Lucas). But there can only be so much nitpicking about an honest, no-bull record like this, one that essentially hits all the right spots. It might not be raising any false illusions about the future vitality of blues-rock, but it does make a good case for why people are still making blues-rock records after all these years. So, a modest, but honest thumbs up here.

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