John Lee Hooker

Live at Sugar Hill, Vol. 2

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Why they kept these 19 recordings locked up in some vault for 40 years is beyond comprehension. A chunk of the Live at Sugar Hill material -- recorded at a club in the Bay Area -- was issued by Fantasy as Boogie Chillun on LP in 1972. It is available on CD minus one track under the same title. As good as that material was, these tracks from the very same gig are hands down some of the sexiest, deepest blues John Lee Hooker ever recorded -- and that's saying something. Accompanied only by his hollow-bodied electric guitar and his foot on the floor, Hooker takes listeners through a performance so intimate that you wonder if there was an audience present -- there is clapping, but not much. Versions of "Crawling King Snake," "Bottle Up and Go," "Let's Get It," "Jelly Jelly," "What's the Matter Baby," "You Don't Miss Your Water," "I Can't Hold On," and others get perhaps their definitive versions here. The opening track, "You Torture My Soul," is one of Hooker's most poignant moments, full of venom and vulnerability. In addition to the stellar performances, Hooker's guitar playing here is perhaps the finest of his career. The rhythms are much more subtle, and the stomp and off-kilter shuffle that are his signature are everywhere present -- they slip out of joint and undo each other from track to track. Hooker actually expands the beat and the listener's sense of time. This is one of the most essential recordings of Hooker material ever issued.

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