Hot Tuna

The Best of Hot Tuna

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This two-disc compilation of RCA recordings, made between 1969 and 1977, traces Hot Tuna's evolution from an acoustic folk-blues group to an electric blues-rock band, and then to a near-heavy metal ensemble, and from a repertoire dominated by covers of songs by blues guitarists like the Reverend Gary Davis to one consisting largely of original material written by guitarist/singer Jorma Kaukonen. Actually, the transitions are not that dramatic, since Kaukonen continues to favor the same kinds of guitar figures whether he's playing acoustic or electric, and his own songs, albeit with more abstract lyrics, are steeped in the traditions that produced the cover material. The compilers might have pleased Hot Tuna fans by placing more emphasis on the group's jamming abilities, including more of its live material ("Death Don't Have No Mercy" is especially missed), and saved some of the Kaukonen compositions for a "best of Jorma" album. But that is not to say that the compilation isn't a balanced, representative condensation of Hot Tuna's career on RCA; it is. It's just that, like the Grateful Dead's, Hot Tuna's studio albums didn't necessarily reflect the best of the group as a performing unit. Note that the set includes a rare studio version of "Been So Long" originally released as a single and a previously unreleased 1977 live version of "Rock Me Baby."

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