Friday, July 3, 2015

Canned Heat – Cook Book


   Canned Heat is meaningful name for the blues rock band since canned heat is an alternative, generic name for Sterno, fuel paste produced on basis of denaturized alcohol, used by firing directly from the can as a kitchen and table heater. The name of the band was taken from 1928 Tommy Johnson’s Canned Heat Blues where addicted to stern alcoholic complains that canned heat is killing him. This bitter blues was rewritten by Bob Hite, who made it inexplicit allusion to some ideas of late sixties. For example first stanza of Johnson’s text said: “Cryin', canned, canned heat, mama, cryin', Dear Lord, killin' me (...) Take alcorub to take these canned heat blues” on Hallelujah album Bob Hite sung “I'm canned heat, canned heat mama lord it sure is good to meet (…) well we tried to make it happen, yeah good times sure don't bother me”, and in conclusion he sings how grateful to the canned heat he is. In his words canned heat made him good old man and let him stay free.
   Canned Heat was born when in 1965 passionate old blues records collector and gifted singer, Bob Hite met Allan ‘Blind Owl’ Wilson, guitar and harmonica player who was listening old blues records studying styles and techniques of folk performers. Third musician involved in this moment was guitarist Henry Vestine. He was present when musicians met for the first time, but started to play with the Canned Heat after Frank Zappa expelled him from Mothers of Invention for excessive drug use. It was third lineup of the band. Canned Heat is the band with extremely unstable lineup, in almost half of century of band’s activity it has changed more than 40 times. The association with Sterno and addictions has much to do with Canned Heat songs and with musicians’ fates. Allan Wilson was found dead September 3, 1970 on the hillside neat Bob Hite’s house. The cause of death was acute barbiturate intoxication. He was 27. Bob Hite overdosed heroin April 5, 1981 in Hollywood when in Palomino Club fan handed him a vial with a drug. Singer thought it is cocaine and sniffs contents of the vial. He collapsed instantly and died the same evening.

Canned Heat – Cook Book (1970)

   First classic lineup was established in 1969 after debut Canned Heat an eponymous album of the band was released. Next three albums Boogie with Canned Heat, Living the Blues and Hallelujah were recorded by singer Bob Hite, singer and guitarist Alan Wilson, guitarist Henry Vestine, bassist Larry Taylor and drummer Fito de la Parra. This was for Canned Heat most successful era between two greatest festivals in the history of the band – Monterey in June 1967 and Woodstock in August 1969. Published in 1970 Cook Book was this period recapitulation. As this is the only compilation published by Liberty it is interesting as a summary of band’s achievements. Two songs opening the album are taken from first eponymously titled Canned Heat LP from 1967 – Bullfrog Blues credited to all members of the band and Rollin' and Tumblin' a cover of Muddy Waters blockbuster. First hit is Going Up the Country from double album Living the Blues.
   Next one Amphetamine Annie from Boogie with Canned Heat is a story with a moral message. From this album editor took also On the Road Again and Fried Hockey Boogie, nice piece with instrumental solos at the end of second side. From Living the Blues there were taken also Boogie Music and from most recent album Hallelujah three songs: Time Was, Same All Over and shortened version of Sic ‘Em Pigs. More popular set of Canned Heat’s songs doesn’t mean less quality. Driving bass by Larry Taylor and energetic drumming by Fito de la Parra is real fuel of this music. In first two songs drummer was Frank Cook, musician with jazz background who later was playing with Pacific Gas & Electric. Vocals by Alan Wilson and Bob Hite are a class of their own. Three and a half stars for this compilation looks a fair note.

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