John Lee Hooker

The Cream

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Joined by a full band that includes two other guitarists (John Garcia, Jr. on lead and Ron Thompson on rhythm), John Lee Hooker is passionately rockin' on this live date recorded at the Keystone in Palo Alto, California in 1977. Hooker has always been known for taking quite a few liberties with his material, something that could easily throw some musicians off. Without a doubt, he keeps sidemen on their toes -- and he presents even more of a challenge on-stage because there are no second and third takes. But this is a band that, although not in a class with Canned Heat, obviously understands (and even thrives on) his sense of spontaneity, and rises to the occasion on such familiar gems as "One Room Country Shack," "When My First Wife Left Me," and "Tupelo," as well as the invigorating "Boogie On" (one of the many variations of "Boogie Chillen" Hooker has provided over the years). Hooker doesn't do as much improvising as he did when playing unaccompanied at New York's Hunter College the previous year, but he never ceases to be confidently soulful. Although not quite essential, The Cream is an engaging LP that definitely has a lot going for it.

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