Canned Heat

Canned Heat 1967-1976: The Boogie House Tapes

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Canned Heat 1967-1976: The Boogie House Tapes is a double-disc set, assembled by drummer Adolfo de la Parra, the only remaining member of the original '60s band, and Canned Heat collector Walter de Paduwa; it's a compilation of some previously "lost" studio and live performances of the indefatigable boogie band. While hardcore fans will rejoice hearing the great Alan Wilson, who appears on roughly half of these tracks, in his prime, it's still a very mixed bag. Guitarists Harvey Mandel and Henry Vestine are featured prominently, as is vocalist Bob "the Bear" Hite who, along with drummer de la Parra, is the only constant band member across these two CDs. Many of these tunes were never intended for release, and as such they are sub-par blues workouts that might have been fun at the time but lay lifeless on album. Still, there are some stunning moments, mostly provided by bird-voiced Wilson, that make this worth the bargain price. Two tunes recorded for the Playboy After Dark TV show in 1969 and 1970, a frustratingly clipped "On the Road Again," and a chilling "My Time Ain't Long" (incorrectly credited to Harvey Mandel; it's actually a Wilson composition) sung by Wilson shortly before his death are certainly of interest to collectors, although neither eclipses the studio version. The same holds for Wilson's stunning turn on his "London Blues" recorded live at Montreux in 1970. Disc two features six Wilson tracks, and although he isn't singing on every one, his presence is felt. Guitarist Vestine is fired up on "You Know I Love You," and there are other tracks that find him in incredible form spitting out psychedelic liquid leads, making the late guitarist, who passed away in 1998, one of the stars of this set. His sterling work on "I Love My Baby" (mysteriously credited to de la Parra as are other jams here) is remarkable, and the band in general locks together like a well-oiled boogie machine with Wilson's trebly slide stinging like a hornet. Sound quality ranges from just above bootleg to fairly good, sometimes wavering in the same tune, and the skimpy liner notes are barely adequate. Although the information is useful, it's split between pages, forcing the reader to flip back and forth to see who is playing on which track and where the performance was originally recorded. Clearly this is not the place for a Canned Heat novice to begin, and even more established fans might find its few gems slim pickings among the unfocused, extended, you-had-to-be-there tracks. It's an intermittently interesting, warts-and-all document of a blues band with good intentions that had some inspired moments, but this inconsistent collection does not show them at their best.

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