John Lee Hooker

Mambo Chillun: Charly Blues Masterworks, Vol. 19

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The UK-based Charly label has done an excellent job of keeping classic Chicago blues alive through their reissues of material from the vaults of Chess, Vee-Jay and other great blues labels. MAMBO CHILLUN continues in that tradition. This collection finds Hooker in his prime and features a fine batch of mid-'50s sides the bluesman cut for Chicago's Vee-Jay. Though the title cut is indeed based around a mambo rhythm, its as much of an anomaly on this album as it is in the larger context of Hooker's career.

The rest of these tunes are a departure from Hooker's trademark "Boogie Chillun" style as well, but they're solidly in the electric Chicago style of artists like Muddy Waters. Accompanied by a full band occasionally including harmonica and piano, Hooker proves adept at the '50s Chess sound, but occasionally hints of his own individual sound creep in, as on ominous tunes like "Crawlin' Black Spider" (a precursor to "Crawlin' King Snake"). If you're in the market for the classic Hooker sound, look elsewhere, but if you're interested in exploring a little-heard side of this great bluesman's talent, turn to MAMBO CHILLUN.

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