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CANNED HEAT Instrumentals 1967-1996 Ruf 1119 (2006)

Canned Heat

For a band who have featured countless line-ups and have over 50 different albums on the catalogue worldwide, you have to ask yourself why this? And if the immediate answer is beyond the listener, there are still enough musical highlights from the loveable musical mavericks to tickle the taste buds.

As with all retrospective projects born of various unheard tapes, the sound quality is variable and a sense of coherence is not immediately apparent, right down to the fact that a supposed instrumental set has vocal interludes of various descriptions from Bob ‘The Bear’ Hite.

And as if the above weren’t obstacles enough, the band opens with the elongated ‘Parthenogenesis’ suite, which at the time of its original release on ‘Living The Blues’ seriously tested the fans patience. There are a few key moments however, as Henry ‘The Sunflower’ Vestine ‘s guitar spirals with purpose on the ‘Icebag’ boogie. Henry also adds some psychedelic noodling on ‘Sunflower Power’ and John Mayall contributes piano on ‘Bear Wires’. The long opening is neatly juxtaposed by Henry’s raw low down dirty guitar blues on ‘Marie Laveau’, originally from the ‘Boogie with Canned Heat’ album.

For the rest there is some sense of progression with Bob Hite adding an irreverent rap on the suitable titled ‘Down in the Gutter But Free’ on which band members swap instruments, resulting in bass player Larry Taylor taking lead guitar honours.

The band seem happiest on jump blues pieces such as ‘Skat’ featuring ‘Blind Owl’ Al Wilson on harp and an unknown pianist. The guitar led jump blues, ‘Hill Stomp’ is even better acting almost as a proto type for Junior Watson’s later stewardship of the band on ‘Hucklebuck’.

Because of their role in popularising the blues and appearing at Woodstock, Canned Heat will doubtless endure under the guidance of drummer Fito de la Parra, but hopefully in the future the band will have more to offer than a bunch of instrumental outtakes.


Review by Pete Feenstra

***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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