John Lee Hooker / Groundhogs

Hooker and the Hogs

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McPhee and the Groundhogs' most important musical legacy, this 1965 set of Hooker and the Hogs has an unusual history. Tony McPhee and the Groundhogs first played with John Lee Hooker in June of 1964, when John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers were unable to fulfill a commitment to back Hooker on the final week of his British tour. The Groundhogs were deputized on the spot and played their first show with him at the Twisted Wheel in Manchester. At the end of the week, Hooker told McPhee how much he liked working with his band and agreed to use the Groundhogs as his backing band on his next visit to England. Hooker was back in May and June of 1965, and not only used them as his band but recorded this album with the Groundhogs. The band was Tony McPhee on guitar, Peter Cruickshank on bass, Dave Boorman on drums, and Tom Parker on keyboards -- some of the stuff here may have surfaced elsewhere, on the Interchord label (as Don't Want Nobody) with brass dubbed on, but this release consists of the undubbed recordings. The sound is raw, tight, and raunchy, some of the best band-backed recordings of Hooker's career. He's notoriously difficult to play support for because of the spontaneity of his work, but these guys keep up and then some, adding engaging flourishes and grace notes. Hooker is in excellent voice, and his material is as strong as any album in his output, rough, dark, and moody. The ominous, surging "Little Dreamer" is worth the price of admission all by itself. [Some reissues add four Hooker solo bonus tracks, which are even louder and more savage than the Groundhogs' stuff, though a little noisy (like that ever mattered with The Hook).]

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