John Lee Hooker

Detroit 1948-1949 (Savoy/Atlantic)

These are some of John Lee Hooker's earliest recordings, probably his second recording session ever, but one can never be sure given the numerous labels he recorded for early in his career. This is certainly the first time that all twenty of his recordings for the Savoy label have been released together at one time. For blues collectors that is good news, and for everybody else it means another classic recording by one of the most interesting blues players ever. As writer Colin Escott points out in his liner notes to this release, there have been no real John Lee Hooker imitators. Oh sure, everybody from the Animals to George Thorogood has covered his songs and tried to ape his style, but the results have usually been pretty pale and embarrassing. His singular, raw sound does not lend itself to imitation or duplication. Probably the closest thing to Hooker's sound and style today would be the school of north Mississippi bluesmen like R.L. Burnside, the late Junior Kimbrough, and T-Model Ford, who specialize in a kind of one-chord, boogie-trance music.

Hooker's own releases in recent years have been mainly superstar guest affairs with lots of appearances by Carlos Santana, Van Morrison, and other grizzled rockers of that ilk. It's nice that Hooker is selling some records this way, but none of that tepid stuff even comes close to what you will hear on this release. For the most part, this is just John Lee Hooker on his own, voice and guitar. There are a few cuts with guitar, piano, and drums as accompaniment, but the man in his prime simply did not need a band live or in the studio. The sound he got with only guitar, voice, and pounding foot -- who needs a drummer when you've got a stomping right foot that the vocal mike picks up most of the time? -- was full, complex, and driving. On his best recordings (and this one would fall into that category), his voice and guitar are inseparable. You can't imagine one without the other.

Hooker sounds good on the handful of songs cut with a band, but his own guitar accompaniment is riveting and all he needs. These 50-year-old recordings are both timeless and more modern than anything Hooker himself has done in decades. And, thank God, there's not a guest artist to be found anywhere on this record.

John Lee Hooker
Anton Corbijn
John Lee Hooker
John Lee Hooker
Anton Corbijn
John Lee Hooker
John Lee Hooker
Anton Corbijn
John Lee Hooker
John Lee Hooker
Anton Corbijn
John Lee Hooker
John Lee Hooker
Anton Corbijn
John Lee Hooker

 
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