cream of the crate: cd review #31 – john lee hooker: boogie man
cream of the crate: cd review #31 – john lee hooker: boogie man
CD Cover – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

  This review was originally posted on the first Toorak Times web site where publications ceased on that site in March 2017. The old site will be permanently closed in 2020 and these reviews are being re-published in order to preserve them on the current Toorak Times/Tagg site.

 

 

 

"The blues tells a story. Every line of the blues has a meaning" - (John Lee Hooker) _ "This is the Boogie man and he's coming to get you." - (Liner notes)

Cream Of The Crate Reviews 1 to 50 were vinyl album reviews.  
The following fifty reviews (51 - 100) were originally marked as CD Reviews 1 - 50
and this numbering has been kept to keep consistency with the published CD reviews.

This is number thirty one in the series of retro-reviews of Cd albums in my collection.

The series is called, “Cream of The Crate (CD’s)”, and they represent CD albums that I believe are of significant musical value, either because of their rarity, because they represent the best of a style or styles of music or because there is something unique about the group or the music.

This is a single CD and while there are many John Lee Hooker releases, this album was never released as a stand-alone CD, but rather was part came with a magazine, The Blues Collection.

In many ways this makes it collectable because that run would have been a limited one.

The CD is titled “Boogie Man” and was released on the Blues Collection label (licensed from Charly International), and was released in 1993. Its code is BLU NC 001.

cream of the crate: cd review #31 – john lee hooker: boogie man
CD Label – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

The album has 18 tracks from from recordings undertaken between 1948 and 1966.

I am very quick to criticise productions that fail to provide at the least decent liner notes, and more often than not many re-releases of previous recordings deserve a decent booklet to support the recording.

Well this is a compilation of some of his best work and we might expect better than a simple one side of a page of very basic liner notes. Yet I can’t criticise because the Cd was originally released with a whole magazine that would have featured stories and pictures of the great man.

Sadly, I have no idea where the magazine is. In fact I’m pretty certain that I purchased the Cd without the mag despite the declaration inside the Cd cover stating, that Cd was not to be sold separate. So no criticism on this occasion.

What the liner notes do say is as follows. “The “Boogie Man” collection spans almost two decades of music the incomparable John Lee Hooker. We hear him in his younger days at the beginning of his career, shouting and moaning the blues to the foot-stomping rhythm of his unique guitar.

Yet we meet him as a major player of the premier league of the blues-men, leading his band to the mesmeric Hooker beat.

He brags, he struts his stuff, he growls blues that bristle with magic and menace, and he rocks out to the irresistible rhythm he has made his own.

This is the Boogie man and he’s coming to get you.”

Born near Clarksdale, Mississippi on August 22, 1917 to a sharecropping family, John Lee Hooker’s earliest musical influence came from his stepfather, Will Moore.

In the early 1940’s Hooker had moved north to Detroit way of Memphis and Cincinnati. Hooker also recorded under the names of Texas Slim, John Lee Booker, Birmingham Sam and His Magic Guitar, and Delta John.

cream of the crate: cd review #31 – john lee hooker: boogie man
A young John Lee Hooker



Hooker found work as a janitor in the auto factories and at night, like many other transplants from the rural Delta, he entertained friends and neighbors playing at “house parties”.

He was “discovered” record store owner Elmer Barbee who took him to Bernard Besman – a producer, record distributor and owner of Sensation Records. Besman then leased some of his early Hooker recordings to Modern Records.

Among Hooker’s first recordings was the 1948, “Boogie Chillen” which became a number one jukebox hit for Modern records and their first million seller.

This was soon followed an even bigger hit with “I’m In The Mood” and other classic recordings including “Crawling Kingsnake” and “Hobo Blues.”

Another surge in his career took place with the release of more than 100 songs on Vee Jay Records during the 1950’s and 1960’s. [John Lee Hooker biography website]

If you are among blues music lovers and were discussing the most influential bluesmen, you would surely mention Muddy Waters and Howling Wolf. There might be some debate as to who is next, but in my mind, it should be John Lee Hooker!

Hooker must have had nothing but “Delta Blues blood” running through his veins.

There are many fantastic Delta Blues singers, and this man was among the very best. His voice was unique and his music has been copied everyone from the Jimi Hendrix, the Animals, Van Morrison through to the Doors.

He has probably had his music played literally thousands of young up and coming groups, all keen to dip their toes into the music of the blues.

Track Listing

1. Boom Boom
2. Crawlin’ King Snake
3. Boogie Chillun’
4. I’m In The Mood
5. Leave My Wife Alone
6. Time Is marching
7. One Bourbon One Scotch One Beer *
8. Ground Hog Blues
9. Dimples
10. Walkin’ The Boogie
11. Hobo Blues
12. It Serves Me Right To Suffer
13. High Priced Woman
14. The Waterfront
15. This is Hip
16. Goin’ mad Blues
17. Wandering Blues
18. House Rent Boogie

All tracks written John Lee Hooker except *Track 7, written Amos Milburn.

Given there is simply no such thing as a “bad” John Lee Hooker composition yet again choosing a few tracks to feature becomes hard on one hand, I mean what do you leave out? Anyone of his tracks could be chosen.

We start with perhaps his best known track, Track # 1Boom Boom.

Although John Lee Hooker was recording as early as 1948, it took 13 years before he wrote and recorded this magnificent track.

It might best be described as, the best “Blues/Pop” song ever written.

It has a few distinguishing features, probably the most obvious is, that John Lee was never a man to be tied to tightly to structure.

Even within the traditional “12 bar blues”, he used to slide his timing and hell, he used to sometimes even alter the timing to fit his lyric structure, but always in a manner that produced a song that grabbed the listener.

Boom Boom is played at 168 beats per minute which is, basically, a very fast walking pace. Not the usual tempo for a blues track!

The track uses some beautiful ‘tricks’ such as a form of pattern interruption, allowing for a classic Hooker guitar riff to break in while maintaining Hooker’s well known ‘Boogie” style in the middle part of the track.

The track itself, is simply a man declaring how this gal effects him!

Boom, boom, boom, boom
I’m gonna shoot you right down
Right off your feet
Take you home with me
Put you in my house

Boom, boom, boom, boom

I love to see you strut
Up and down the floor
And when you talking to me that ba talk

I like it like that

Oh, when you talk like that
You knocks me out
Right off of my feet
Hoo, hoo, hoo, whoa, yeah

Boom Boom

 

Track #3 Boogie Chillun’.

This was the first track recorded John Lee Hooker in 1948 and it still holds up today as both a great boogie track and a wonderful example of John Lee’s style.

Apart from going to #1 on the R&B charts in 1949, the riff John Lee developed became possibly the “mainstay” of future boogie tracks, and certainly had an influence on the soon to be developing Rock ‘n’ Roll.

The ‘sound’ may seem a bit dated to the uninformed ear, but this is pure music genius.

Boogie Chillun’

 

Track #9 is Dimples. 

This along with Boom Boom would be the most often copied track all up and coming “white blues” bands in the 1960’s.

It has the classic Hooker ‘Boggie Swing” about it. Hooker manages to beautifully drop some of the beats in the 12 bar structure, kind of like what I was eluding to in the discussion with Boom Boom.

He didn’t stick to the ‘formula’ on most occasions, and here the tempo is nowhere near the 168 bpm of Boom Boom, yet, it stands out as a classic John Lee Hooker track, perhaps almost rivalling Boom Boom as his most played track.

As you can see from the complete print out of the lyrics, it doesn’t take a complex set of lyrics with an involved story, to make a great track.

It doesn’t get much simpler than this, and maybe John Lee Hooker was the fore runner of the “KISS” principle (Keep It Simple Stupid), well before it became fashionable toward the end of the 20th century.

I love the way you walk
I love the way you walk
I’m crazy ’bout your walk
I love the way you walk
You my babe, I got my eyes on you

I like the way you switch
I like the way you switch
I like the way you switch
I like the way you switch
You my babe, I got my eyes on you

You got dimples in your jaw
You got dimples in your jaw
You got dimples in your jaw
You got dimples in your jaw
You my babe, I got my eyes on you

Well, I see you every day
Well, I see you every day
If you need to look
Well, I see you every day
Well, I see you every day
You my babe, I got my eyes on you

Dimples


The final track is track #11Hobo Blues.

I have chosen because this track absolutely epitomises John lee Hooker the “traditional” delta blues singer. This is a delightful piece of blues that makes much use of his foot stomping rhythm and was recorded in 1966.

For the second time in this review, I re-quote from the liner notes, “He brags, he struts his stuff, he growls blues that bristle with magic and menace, and he rocks out to the irresistible rhythm he has made his own.” This track may have inspired that piece of writing!

When I first thought to hobo’in, hobo’in
I took a freight train to be my friend, oh Lord
You know I hobo’d, hobo’d, hobo’d, hobo’d
Hobo’d a long, long way from home, oh Lord

Yes, my mother followed me that mornin’, me that mornin’, boy
She followed me down to the yard, oh yeah
She said, “My son he’s gone, he’s gone, he’s gone
Yes, he’s gone in a poor some wear, oh yeah”

Yes, I left my dear old mother, dear old mother
I left my honor, need a crime, oh Lord
Take care of my child
Take care, take care of my child.

We can feel the pain and anguish of the mother watching her child hitch the freight car and joining the ever growing number of hobo’s whose numbers had swelled as a result of the Great Depression.

Yet, this is not why I enjoy this track!

I enjoy it because I hear a man who has the blues pouring from his very soul and this is what attracts many of us to the blues, we are privy to share the pain, the desperation, the sadness and anger, that are the essential elements cooked up in a person’s soul, and released as the blues!

Hobo Blues

 

We are almost at the end of this review, so here is a fact you may not know about Hooker.

Hooker owned a bar in San Francisco called John Lee Hooker’s Boom Boom Room — Kind of. There once was a gritty bar in San Francisco called Jack’s Tavern at1 601 Fillmore in 1988 — close to the legendary Fillmore Auditorium. Hooker often came in for the live music, and owner Alexander Andreas offered to make Hooker a partner. His business manager thought it a bad idea for tax reasons.

So Andres made them a better offer. Hooker wouldn’t own the bar, but he would have all the perks of ownership — in exchange for using his name. So Jack’s became John Lee Hooker’s Boom Boom Room. They used Hooker’s likeness, kept a reserved red-velvet rope booth for him, and gave him all the perks of ownership with none of the problems. Hooker attended opening night with other well-known artists including Joe Louis Walker, and Robert Cray.[American Blues Scene]

cream of the crate: cd review #31 – john lee hooker: boogie man
John Lee – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

There are good deaths, and bad deaths and everything between.

However, when a Blues legend passes on it is a death that is mourned many.

In a large obituary, the New York Times wrote in part, “John Lee Hooker, the bluesman whose stark, one-chord boogies were some of the feistiest and most desolate songs of the 20th century, died yesterday in his sleep at his home in Los Altos, Calif., said his agent, Mike Kappus. He was 83.”

cream of the crate: cd review #31 – john lee hooker: boogie man
The Great John Lee Hooker – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

But we don’t go out today and pay for music, in this case recorded some of it 66 years ago, because there is a well written obituary that is factually accurate.

We buy the music of blues artists like John Lee Hooker because it touches us, because it makes us smile, makes us sad, makes us glad to be alive!

As Hooker himself wrote, “No matter what anybody says, it all comes down to the same thing. A man and a woman, a broken heart and a broken home. The blues tells a story. Every line of the blues has a meaning.”

I cannot imagine there is a lover of blues music that does not have John Lee Hooker in his or her collection.

There is no reason to suggest that this particular album is better or worse than any other John Lee Hooker release. After all, there are around 88 Vinyl LP releases and 42 CD compilations. It would take a brave (or stupid) person to declare one was better than another.

There was one copy of this Cd on Ebay, going for $16.00. I guess if you are trying to get all his Cd’s then go for it.

If you are just starting out to add John Lee Hooker to your collection, then this Cd while very good, is really only one of many – so just pick whatever one grabs your attention. BUT, get one!


VIDEOS:

Here is a selection of videos from Youtube featuring John Lee Hooker playing live.

 

It’s My Own Fault Darlin’

 

Boom Boom

 

Maudie & Tupelo

 

Previous Cream of The Crate Albums:

 

To view/listen the first 50 vinyl album reviews just click the image below –

cream of the crate cd review #2 : robert johnson – the complete recordings

 

Click to open the following CD reviews:

#1. The Fugs: The Fugs First Album

#2. Robert Johnson – The Complete Recordings

#3. Bob Dylan – Biograph

#4. Robin Trower – Essential

#5. Various Artists – Sixties Down Under Compilation

#6. Various Artists – The Big Ol’ Box of New Orleans

#7. Hugh Masekela – African Breeze: 80’s

#8. The Last Poets – The Very Best of the Last Poets

#9. Sister Rosetta Tharpe – Down By The Riversiide

#10. Various Artists – Sixties Down Under: Vol. 2

#11. The Beatles – On Air: Live at BBC Vol.2

#12. The Rolling Stones – Singles Collection: The London Years

#13. Compilation: Girl Groups Of The Sixties

#14. The Byrds – There Is A Season [Boxed Set]

#15. Various Artists – Sixties Down Under: Volume 4

#16. Howling Wolf – The London Sessions

#17. The Who – Thirty Years of Maximum R&B

#18. Thomas Dolby – Hyperactive

#19. Various Artists – Love Is the Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965 – 1970

#20. Various Artists: 60’s Down Under – Volume 4

#21. 2nu – Ponderous

#22. The Great Eric Clapton and The Yardbirds [Boxed Set]

#23. The Sue Records Story: New York City – The Sound of Soul

#24. Various Artists – The Encyclopedia of Boogie Woogie

#25. Cam-Pact – Psychedelic Pop ‘n Soul: 1967 – 1969

#26. The Clash – The Singles

#27. Arthur Brown – Fire: The Story of Arthur Brown

#28. Various Artists – Red Hot & Blue: Col Porter Tribute

#29. Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros – Global a Go Go

#30 – Jeff St John’s Copper Wine – Joint Effort