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Music Review: Canned Heat – Boogie House Tapes Volume 3

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This is the last one, folks. The very last Canned Heat Boogie House Tape that you’ll ever hear. Until the next one’s found, anyway. And I don’t mean that as a slam to anybody or any institution. With the record companies’ standpoints on pinching every penny so tightly they make Lincoln need to change his diaper, I have little sympathy. So here’s my logic: If the record companies had something like a guaranteed seller, a big guaranteed seller, it wouldn’t still be in the vaults. It would either be on the street, or the trumpets would be blowing, Lassie would be taking the shipment personally to all the music outlets, and the twelve white Clydesdales would have been clip-clopping down the center of the mall announcing the big event. A Dog & Pony Show, set to music.

But seriously, over the past few years some new, previously unknown musical artifacts … and yes they are artifacts: they’re forty and fifty years old – have actually been discovered. A few of them have to do with things some people didn’t want to get out. Others, startled descendants are sometimes taken aback with what ole’ grandwhatever or great-grandwhatever had stashed away. How many times have you heard, “S/He never told a soul!”

But I digress. Canned Heat was the best – bar none – White Boy Blues Rock band that I’ve ever heard. Before you throw a shoe at me, please listen. I know the band is still together, but in many cases when a single person from a group is left standing, the group suffers. Sometimes the sole survivor will accept somebody who’s not quite there in the rendition of the music, just because the survivor can’t stand to see the group die. Don’t raise that shoe; lemme finish.

I’ve never heard Canned Heat in their current incarnation, so I’m not talking about them. All I’m saying is that I’d have to hear them before I’d say anything. Only fair, right? I heard them at Atlantic City, at Woodstock, and on Oahu, in 1969, 1969, and (I think) 1970, respectively, and they were always the same, or so close to the same that my ear couldn’t tell the difference. Then again, I usually had pleasure on my mind, not business, when I went to these events to see them. I think you can see the way the smoke is drifting on that point, can’t you?

Again, I’m not being derogatory, I’m simply commenting. The Canned Heat that’s on all their vintage published work had a major, permanent personnel change, and that took a lot of the shine off the band: Alan Wilson, Blind Owl. You could hear the difference sometimes, other times it was tough to tell. The writing suffered, and they were always good, just different.

Then when Bob Hite died, I think that was more than the band could endure, at least at that particular time. It may be different now. Anyway, now comes the review, but I felt it was important to lay out any prejudices I may have beforehand.

This CD, Boogie House Tapes Volume 3, is one fine, fine CD. It’s a two-CD set(not one, as Amazon carries it incorrectly as), 142 minutes of kick-ass vintage and later band configurations all rolled into one, or should I say, two CDs. The first cut is Alan noodling on his guitar, a short piece. Then when “World In A Jug” kicks in, it’s a Lay’s Potato Chip moment, except put to music. You cannot, if you’re normal, sit still. [If you are sitting still, do your spouse, squeeze, kids, or parents, a favor: Check yourself into a crematorium.] Sunnyland Slim on piano really puts a different perspective on the song, but one that’s completely synchronous and sonorous with the original Canned Heat rendition.

Ruf Records has done a masterful, remarkable job on getting this long-awaited disc (along with several other Canned Heat CDs) into the hands of blues junkies, me in particular. “Who Records?” you ask. Ruf Records, the blues record label that’s been putting out some real gems beginning with Luther Allison, years ago. If you haven’t discovered the label, it’s time you did. And if you want to pronounce it correctly, it’s “roof,” like the one I hope you have over your head. Ruf as in Thomas Ruf, the founder and owner, who was also Luther Allison’s manager, and is now Bernard (Luther’s son) Allison’s manager. Thomas Ruf has been quietly picking up quality musicians and bands to record, and the company’s managed to keep under the radar fairly well. However, I think those days are limited. If they’re not already, they’ll be running with the big dogs soon, and the other big dogs will be trying hard to keep their status quo.

I don’t want to get anybody in trouble here, so thanks Anonymous, for getting this superb CD set to me before the street date, which was late, by the way. Or maybe it wasn’t late, maybe the date I read was incorrect. Either way, I think it’s out now and you should run to your record shop and pick it up.

And by the way, on that note, Record Shop Day is coming up soon. There’s no better time to check in with them. Most if not all will have huge sales going on, there’ll be giveaways in some shops, they’ll be guest musicians in others. All types of good-time stuff and good-sale stuff, folks, so hop to it.

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About Lou Novacheck

  • Thanks for featuring Canned Heat!

  • Miguel

    Bueno, son grabaciones piratas en directo, con distintas early line up, con baja calidad de sonido, pero tiene bastantes canciones magistralmente interpretadas, Con un Henry especialmente inspirado en Kickapoo Creek Festival.

    Los más grandes, gracias por haber existido
    Dont forget the boogie