John Lee Hooker

The Best of Friends

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John Lee Hooker's recordings for Virgin/Point Blank may have varied in quality, but never in formula. Once The Healer earned reams of praise and, more importantly, solid sales upon its 1989 release, it was pretty much set in stone that every future Hooker album would be painstakingly constructed and boast a plethora of superstar cameos. The guest stars were designed to bring in a larger audience, who would hopefully be impressed enough to stick around for Hooker's solid stuff, which was usually better than the attention-grabbing, star-studded tracks. Of course, the names are what sold, and Virgin did not overlook that fact, choosing to assemble a collection of highlights titled The Best of Friends in 1998. The title refers to the superstar duets, and while this very well may be the best of those cuts -- well, almost all of the duets are here, including both the sublime ("I Cover the Waterfront," with Van Morrison) and the mediocre -- this stuff still isn't as good as Hooker's solo recordings from this era. Which means this disc is primarily for listeners who like to think they like Hooker, but they really just want to hear Eric Clapton wail away.

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