John Lee Hooker was always John Lee Hooker no matter how one tried to dress him up, his back-porch boogie style essentially -- and thankfully -- remaining the same throughout his long career on dozens of labels. He was always John Lee, playing an urbanized country blues that always stayed gritty, raw, and loose. This brief 11-track sampler collects several sides that were released in one fashion or another by Chess Records or its associates, including three sides that were produced by Leonard and Phil Chess themselves (“Sugar Mama,” an alternate take of “Walkin’ the Boogie,” and Lowell Fulson's “Please Don’t Go”), an earlier track produced by Bernard Besman (“Leave My Wife Alone”), a pair of sides produced by jazz veteran Bob Thiele for Bluesway Records (“It Serves You Right to Suffer” and “I’m Bad Like Jesse James”), two Ralph Bass-produced sides (“I’m in the Mood” and the classic “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer”), and a pair of relatively sophisticated sides (for John Lee, anyway) produced by Al Smith (“The Motor City Is Burning” and “Back Biters and Syndicators”). It adds up to a kind of random playlist, but again, John Lee Hooker was always pretty much John Lee Hooker, so if this isn’t the perfect introduction to him, it’s still effective and it’s nice to have a Hooker compilation (and there are countless numbers of them on the market) that ranges a little bit further afield in its composition.
AllMusic Review by Steve Leggett