Straight Ahead (1996) is only one of the seemingly endless stream of Canned Heat compilations drawn from Live at the Topanga Corral (1971) [aka Live at the Kaleidoscope 1969 (2000)] and the Vintage (1969) collection of studio demos. At the center of the personnel are Bob "The Bear" Hite (vocals), Alan "Blind Owl" Wilson (guitar/harmonica/vocals), Henry "Sunflower" Vestine (guitar), and Larry "The Mole" Taylor (bass), as well as a number of drummers, including Frank Cook and Aldolfo "Fido" de la Parra. "Big Road Blues," "Rollin' and Tumblin'," "Got My Mojo Working," "Dimples," "Spoonful," and "Pretty Thing" are from the aforementioned Vintage, boasting 1966 demos produced by R&B entrepreneur Johnny Otis. "Wish You Would," "Dust My Broom," "Sweet Sixteen," and "Bullfrog Blues" were recorded at the Kaleidoscope in Los Angeles -- although they initially circulated as Live at the Topanga Corral. Here, there are longer and more involved interactions among Wilson, Vestine, and Taylor, who show their stuff on the funky and freewheelin' cover of Billy Boy Arnold's "Wish You Would." As none of their best-known work is featured and neither package from which this anthology was culled are presented in their entirety, Straight Ahead is a title for all dimensions of enthusiasts to avoid. Sadly, there are many other similar repackagings glutting CD bins, while a majority of Canned Heat's classic long-players remain out of print or difficult for the average consumer to locate. Those in search of worthy career retrospectives should seek the single-CD On the Road Again (1989) or, for those wanting a more thorough set, the double-disc Uncanned! The Best of Canned Heat (1994).
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AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer