My enduring memory of Canned Heat is not visual but as providing the opening theme song to the original Woodstock movie.
Canned Heat was formed during the mid-1960s and after performances at the Monterey Pop Festival and Woodstock; they became one of the top concert attractions in the world during the first half of the 1970’s. During 1970 they went into the studio and recorded an album with John Lee Hooker titled Hooker “n” Heat. Shortly thereafter, founding member and lead guitarist Alan Wilson died at the age of 27.
On April 15, 1971, about six months after Wilson’s death, the band and John Lee Hooker performed at Carnegie Hall, not exactly a venue known for the blues. That concert, Carnegie Hall 1971, has now been released as the first in a three part series of live Canned Heat releases, which include Stockholm 1971 and Illinois Blues 1973.
First the bad news; the concert is not complete. For some reason the tape did not run throughout the entire performance so what was recorded is what you get. Particularly missed is the opening John Lee Hooker set. Now the really bad news; the sound borders on the terrible. There are places where it really detracts from the music.
The good news is what is there is some of the finest examples of early 1970’s electric blues that you will find. The 19 minute “Shake “n” Boogie” is a jam fest delight as the improvisation of the band goes on and on and on, proving that the Grateful Dead were not the only improvisational band of the era.
“Back Door Man” has deep rhythms, while “Tease Me Baby” has Hooker out front. Fold in “Framed,” “Let’s Work Together,” and “Hey Babe” and you have just about an hour of excellent rock/blues.
The liner notes trace the history of the band and their relationship with Hooker.
Despite the above mentioned negatives; Carnegie Hall 1973 is a worthwhile addition to any blues collection.