Exposé Online banner

Canned Heat — Historical Figures and Ancient Heads / The New Age
(BGO BGOCD672, 1973/2005, CD)

Canned Heat & John Lee Hooker — Hooker 'n' Heat
(BGO BGOCD694, 1971/2005, 2CD)

by Peter Thelen, Published 2007-03-01

Historical Figures and Ancient Heads / The New Age Cover artHooker 'n' Heat Cover art

If you don't dig the blues and you don't boogie, skip this review. Canned Heat's stock in trade was merging classic blues with rock, and in the late 60s nobody did it better, due in part to the band's founders Bob "The Bear" Hite and Al "Blind Owl" Wilson's deep love and respect of classic blues. The band's first three albums (Canned Heat, Boogie with Canned Heat and Livin' the Blues) from '67 and '68 are nothing short of exceptional. After the band's fourth studio LP, Hallelujah in '69, guitarist Henry "Sunflower" Vestine left the band, replaced by Harvey Mandel in time for their appearance at Woodstock in '69. But in May 1970 it was Vestine, not Mandel who was present at the sessions with vintage bluesman John Lee Hooker — one of Canned Heat's primary influences, that produced the Hooker 'n' Heat album, released a year later. Disc one starts with half a dozen tracks of solo Hooker accompanying himself on electric guitar, later to be joined first by Al Wilson on harmonica and guitar for a few tracks, then one by one the remaining members of the band join in as the sound transitions from pure blues to the revved-up blues-rock style on "Boogie Chillin' No.2" that closes disc two. All the compositions throughout are Hooker originals, including several of his better known songs. An oft-forgotten gem in the Canned Heat catalog, it was one of Hooker's best selling releases. Sadly, Wilson would not live to see the album's release.

In the post-Wilson era, personnel changes were the order of the day in Canned Heat, yet the band weathered the changes well and remained vital. Historical Figures and Ancient Heads remains on solid ground through the efforts of Hite, Vestine (who had by this time returned to the fold), drummer Adolfo "Fito" De La Parra, and several newer members, as well as guests like Little Richard and others. Wilson's harmonica and odd guitar tunings are surely missed, and the band was trying to do some experimentation outside their blues-rock forte, which resulted in a couple throwaway cuts, but overall this is still a respectable effort.

1973's The New Age continues with more lineup changes, but the core of Hite, Vestine, and De La Parra remain, and overall this is another solid effort, with a more diverse sound — new rhythm guitarist James Shane is sharing vocals with Bob Hite, whose brother Richard has now stepped in on bass and rhythm guitar, and the band now has its first full-time keyboardist in Ed Beyer. Highlights include "Lookin' for My Rainbow," where Shane shares the vocal spot with the Clara Ward singers, and a cover of the Leiber/Stoller classic "Framed," made famous by The Coasters (and later by Cheech and Chong). This would be Canned Heat's final major label release, although the band soldiered on through the 70s and 80s, and continue right up through the present (with more lineup changes and tragedies), now touring as a four-piece led by De La Parra


Filed under: Reissues, Issue 34, 2005 releases, 1973 recordings, 1971 recordings

Related artist(s): Canned Heat, John Lee Hooker

Latest news

2020-01-21
Gong Announces UK Tour for 2020 – Having spent the last few years touring the world, including dates in Japan with psych legend Steve Hillage, multiple headline European tours and festivals, America’s Cruise to the Edge festival, a South America headline tour, and a headline performance at Tomorrow Festival in China, the band have won the hearts of both traditional and modern Gong fanbases. During this live journey, Gong has delved further into the truly psychedelic, exploratory, and mind-expanding side of the music. » Read more

2020-01-15
Carlos Alvarado RIP – Carlos Alvarado, pioneering composer, multi-instrumentalist and pioneer of progressive rock and electronic experimental music in Mexico, passed away January 14th, 2020 at age 68 after a two year battle with cancer.  » Read more

2020-01-12
Wolfgang Dauner RIP – Pianist Wolfgang Dauner, one of the pioneers of both European free jazz and jazz rock, has died at the age of 84. With his own groups and with the United Jazz+Rock Ensemble, his playing and compositions were a prominent presence in European jazz from the mid-60s until just recently. » Read more

2020-01-12
Michael Allison RIP – Michael Allison, who since 1997 has been recording as Darshan Ambient, passed away on January 9th after a long and brave battle with cancer. He has been at at the forefront of the new ambient/electronic music scene, with over eighteen releases to his credit. » Read more

2020-01-10
Neil Peart RIP – One of rock music's defining drummers has died at the age of 67. Neil Peart's work with Rush provided one of the templates for percussion in rock, and he certainly ranks in the top ten most influential drummers of the 20th Century. Peart retired from playing in 2015 due to health issues, and succumbed to brain cancer on January 7, 2020. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Andy Summers - The Last Dance of Mr. X – What's this? Former Police-man Andy Summers fronting what is essentially a power trio? And with a backing band consisting of monster bassist Tony Levin and Gregg Bissonette on drums? Perhaps the...  (1999) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues