John Lee Hooker
Reviewed by Austin Powell, Fri., Dec. 8, 2006
John Lee Hooker
Hooker (Shout! Factory)
No one in Canned Heat called bluff when the Boogie Man, John Lee Hooker, claimed he could cut three records in three days before laying down "Burning Hell" in '71. During his five-decade career Hooker waxed more than 100 albums, recording under aliases Texas Slim, John Lee Cooker, and Birmingham Sam & His Magic Guitar to avoid label disputes. Give that, compiling the first cohesive career overview on the seminal bluesman was no picnic. Hooker, a 4-CD, 84-song collection, brings the "Boom Boom" nonetheless, packing in every quintessential single from "Tupelo Blues" to "Big Legs Tight Skirt" that casual fans would expect. The chronological ordering doesn't reveal an evolution of style, structure, or technique, but Delta John's back-porch poetry, droning six-string shuffle, and incessant toe tapping remain constant throughout his career. The progression of recording technology and the change in scenery doubles as Hooker's arc, beginning with grainy and raw home recordings of traditional numbers like "Moses Smote the Water" and "Catfish Blues" from the late 1940s, transitioning through his various backing bands and hits, and closing with his comeback collaborations of the early-Nineties, which feature Van Morrison, Carlos Santana, and Jimmie Vaughan, among others. The only drawback is Hooker barely touches on the man's live performances, which were an integral part of his career. Consider ordering Live at Cafe Au Go-Go (And Soledad Prison) on the side and chasing it with "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer."