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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume. 33, Number 10. 8 July, 1970

Fathers and Sons

Fathers and Sons

The distinctive if unorthodox style of John Lee Hooker sets him apart from his contemporaries and has given the Detroit blues singer a sound quality which is completely his own.

Of his numerous LP releases in New Zealand this new Regal set, John Lee Hooker sings Blues must be one of the best. Cut in Detroit in 1948/49, the twelve tracks here were recorded by Hooker under the pseudonym of Texas Slim. This is the raw and uninhibited blues produced by Hooker in the years preceding the R&B sound of the post-War years that the Negro population demanded. John Lee's heavy rhythm accentuated by a pronounced foot stomp dominate the whole album. Slims Stomp and Devils Jump move along at a frantic pace and are typical of the popular sound that gave Hooker with million selling hits with Boogie Chillun and I'm In The Mood, Although the recording quality is not the best (Hooker must have invented distortion) the price $1.99, will certainly make up for any lack in fidelity. Hooker is a prolific recording artist and this album will bring his total releases in this country to a dozen or so.

The up-tempo blues also show the influence his style has had on the young white artists such as Canned Heat, the Animals and Spencer Davis. The best tracks include Slims Stomp, I'm Gonna Kill That Woman, Don't You Remember Me, Devils Jump, Heart Trouble Blues, Don't Go Baby and Late Last Night. All of the tracks on this LP were recorded at his peak. John Lee Hooker Sings Blues is a gas—give it a listen.

To collectors of blues records or even just casual listeners, the name of Muddy Waters (real name McKinley Morganfield) must be familiar. His music has been performed and recorded by artists as diverse as Jimmy Smith and The Rolling Stones. His band has been producing music for the last twenty to thirty years that has come to be regarded as the epitome of the Chicago blues style. On Fathers and Sons recorded in April 1969, we have Muddy's latest offering. He is accompanied by his cousin Otis Spann, who has been in the Waters band since the early 50's, Paul Butterfield (harmonica), Mike Bloomfield (guitar), Donald Dunn (bass, with Booker T), Sam Lay (drums), and several other guests on old tracks.

John Lee Hooker album cover

Fathers and Sons album cover

Big City Blues by Howlin' Wolf album cover

The first album was recorded in a studio session and comprises remakes of Muddy's earlier recordings, some of which may be familiar to you. These earlier cuts featured such great names as Little Walter, Jimmy Rogers, and Willie Dixon and were among the finest modem blues produced. I feel this album is a fine attempt to recreate the excitement and driving power of these classic recordings. All the vocal work is by Muddy. The rest of the band play extremely well, perhaps with a little more restraint in the case of the younger players.

The other LP was recorded at a live concert and although some of the balance of the first LP is lost this is amply compensated for by the excitement of the extended versions of Muddy's numbers.

If you like Muddy Waters and if Chicago based blues is your 'bag' you should enjoy this album. For me the original recordings still hold top honours, but if you've not heard much of his earlier work (there was an LP released here in the More Real Folk Blues series) then give this album a listen. It is one of the most successful attempts yet to record integrated blues.

Chester 'Howlin' Wolf' Burnett is another well-known Chicago bluesman who was raised in Memphis although born in Aberdeen, Mississippi. The numbers on this LP feature his very earliest recordings which were made in 'down home' Memphis (-styled) way. Several of the numbers on the first side were recorded in the Sun Studios by Sam Philips (of Elvis Presley fame) in the early 50's and show a mature style. The probable personnel are Joe Vallon (piano), Willie Johnson (guitar), Pat Hare (guitar), Willie Steel (bass) and of course Wolf (harp and vocals). He was in his forties when he first recorded and was taught guitar by the legendary Charlie Patton and shows his influence on some tracks and in his vocal style. Ike Turner, it seems, discovered Wolf.

This is an important record historically with low-fidelity sound, for collectors only. Rechannelled stereo on old LP s just does not work.