Canned Heat

Friends in the Can

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The good news is that Stanley Behrens no longer sounds like Kermit the Frog on quaaludes. Well, at least not as uncannily as he once did. The other good news is that, 36 years after helping turn blues into a genre of pop music, the rest of the band plays more tightly and joyfully than ever. For this album, which is aptly (if none too cleverly) titled Friends in the Can, Canned Heat is joined by a fairly predictable all-star cast of guests that includes slide guitar fiend Roy Rogers, Taj Mahal, Walter Trout, and even (posthumously) John Lee Hooker. The result could have gone either way, but by keeping the songs under tight control and focusing on the lowdown boogie -- and thanks to the maturity of all involved, none of whom seem to feel the slightest need to grandstand -- the participants have produced an album that sounds the way a good steak dinner tastes. Highlights include the Hooker showcase "Little Wheel" (actually an outtake from the Healer sessions), the Corey Stevens composition "Getaway," and a gloriously greasy rendition of "Let's Work Together" that brings absolutely nothing new to that old chestnut -- just joy and an apparently inextinguishable sense of musical camaraderie. Recommended.

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