Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Boogie With Canned Heat -

I found two album covers particularly frightening when I was little: The Iron Butterfly LP with the big ear on the moon and Canned Heat's Boogie With Canned Heat. I liked the sci-fi take on Heavy, but it gave me nightmares. Boogie With Canned Heat, conversely, kept me awake, like those monster models from Aurora that my brother built.    

In 1967 Canned Heat signed to Liberty Records after appearing at Monterey. In July, they released a self-titled LP that made it to No. 76 on the album chart, quickly followed by Boogie with Canned Heat in early 1968, which spent over a year on the Billboard chart, peaking at No. 16. Where the debut album was largely covers, including the obligatory (for a blues band) "Dust My Broom," Boogie was largely original material and remains a firm favorite for anyone who loves the blues. A significant reason for its success is the iconic "On the Road Again" which made it to No.16 on the Hot 100 in the summer of '68.

Chicago bluesman Floyd Jones recorded a track entitled "On the Road Again" in 1953, itself a remake of another of his songs from two years prior called "Dark Road." Both these songs are based on Tommy Johnson's 1928 "Big Road Blues." Canned Heat's version was recorded as a 7-minute demo in April 1967 at RCA Studios in Chicago with original drummer, Frank Cook. During the recording of Boogie with Canned Heat, the band recorded it again, this time with new drummer Adolfo "Fito" de la Parra at Liberty Records studio in Los Angeles in September 1967. Blind Owl Wilson used verses from Floyd Jones' "On the Road Again" and "Dark Road," as well as adding some of his own lyrics. "On the Road Again" went to No.8 in the UK later in '67. The track uses a one-chord boogie riff inspired by John Lee Hooker's 1949 hit "Boogie Chillen'" that is made distinctive by Wilson's best Skip James-inspired falsetto and his unique harp playing.

Other stand out Canned Heat cuts include "World in a Jug," the b-side of "On the Road Again," "Amphetamine Annie," and the 11-plus minute"Fried Hockey Boogie" that the band reworked as "Woodstock Boogie" when they played the festival in August 1969.

Besides the five core members, the album features a cameo from pianist Sunnyland Slim on "Turpentine Moan." Dr. John also plays piano on the album, as well as providing the horn arrangements (his own debut album, Gris Gris, was released the same day in 1968 (21 January).

Canned Heat’s biggest hit, "Goin' Up the Country" would follow two years later on the band's third LP, Living the Blues. The song, often labeled as a "Hippie Anthem," was based on "Bull Doze Blues" by 20s bluesman Henry Thomas. The unique flutelike sound is the quills, essentially blues panpipes, similar to what is found on Thomas’ version, but set to a rock 'n' roll beat. The song reached No. 11 on the Billboard charts, and of course has become a musical symbol of getting away from it all. Canned Heat is highly underrated LP that should be required listening for anyone interested in the blues.