Formed in 1966, Canned Heat is a blues-based rock band founded by Alan Wilson and Bob Hite, both blues historians and record collectors; their beginnings seemed like a textbook for success, playing big name rock festivals of the day such as Woodstock and Monterey, but the band never seemed to acquire a mass following. Following Monterey they released their debut album "Canned Heat", a deep, honky tonk piece that was every bit the bluesy recording one would expect from a band of fine blues craftsmen. Hite was nicknamed 'The Bear" due to his rather massive girth, stalking the stages ala' Howling Wolf and the likes of the era. "Blind Owl" Wilson was a musician of considerable talent, playing an incredible harmonica as well as a deep, textured guitar sound that most musicians would envy. Their biggest success came from the band's 1969 third album, "Livin' the Blues" which spawned the familiar hit "Goin' Up The Country", which has endured the decades in large part due to Canned Heat's performance of the song at Woodstock being a part of both the album and film releases of the event.
The following year the band brought in John Lee Hooker to record a double album, "Hooker N' Heat" which was the first album of Hooker's storied career to make the charts. Sadly, founding member Wilson died of a drug overdose in September 1970, a month before the album's release; there was no suicide note, but there was some controversy as to whether or not it was an accidental death. The last studio recording with Hite was 1978's "Human Condition"; he died of a massive heart attack in April 1981. Other highlights were "On The Road Again" which provided Canned Heat with a Top 20 hit in the UK and a smash hit in the USA, and "Let's Work Together" which climbed the charts around the world.
The band is notable not only for their blues contributions but also for their efforts in bringing several old forgotten blues craftsmen back to the limelight over the years, such as Hooker, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Sunnyland Slim, Skip James, and Albert Collins, who they brought to California, having their manager negotiate a recording agreement for which started Collins on the way to becoming a world-renowned musician. Despite a number of lineup changes over the decades, Canned Heat has continued to live on through the efforts of leadman and drummer Fito de la Parra. The group took their name from Tommy Johnson's 1928 song "Canned Heat Blues" about an alcoholic who turned to drinking Sterno.
Listed here is a setlist of the concert-
1. On the Road Again
2. Please Mr. Nixon w/ Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown
3. Worried Life Blues w/ Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown
4. Ooh Poo Pah Doo w/ Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown
5. Funky w/ Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown
6. Night Time is the Right Time
7. Let's Work Together
8. Rock and Roll Music
9. Lookin' for My Rainbow
10. Montreux Boogie (improvisation)
Being one of the baby boomer generation, I was born in a period when
Woodstock took place while I was in grade school, and the Canned Heat
saga was well under way long before I turned my attention to rock and
roll. Nonetheless, I find it difficult to imagine many ears out there
who have tuned their radios to a classic rock station and not heard the
songs the band is renowned for, such as the opening number, "On The Road
Again". The band seems to have barely gotten warmed up before
bringing out legendary axeman Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown for four
numbers, who rolls right into a fine bluesy protest song against the
Nixon administration, "Please Mr. Nixon". Indeed, the band seems to give
up the stage to the blues great, more than content to step back a bit in
order to allow the audience to enjoy both his music and persona. The
next piece is an extended instrumental jam with Gatemouth on harmonica,
"Worried Life Blues" followed by the old 60's soul staple "Ooo Poo Pah
Doo" which is played here as something of a guitar tour de force, and
Once Brown leaves the stage the band stays in the blues element, turning in a fine rendition of the old standards " Night Time Is The Right
Time", "Rock And Roll Music", then break into a long improvisational
boogie woogie tune for their finale. The band comes across as
perpetually loose and relaxed, more than happy to simply get on the
stage and play rather than be overly concerned with overt technical
proficiency, and it suits both the group and the music just fine. They
get involved in the tunes performed, turning them into extended jam
sessions showcasing their fine guitar work and the soulful vocals of
Hite and company. This is a spirited, capable band that will likely
evoke comparisons to several of their era's rock and blues peers.
Founded in 1967, the Montreux Jazz Festival has established itself as one of
the most prestigious music events in the world. The extraordinary list of
artists who have played there over the last 30 years is drawn from across
the musical spectrum. With the consent of both the festival and the artists,
Eagle Vision is making these concerts available for the first time on DVD.
While a statement like this could be construed as hype by many, the list of
concert DVDs the company has already released is indeed diverse and
star-studded. This reviewer has already watched and/or written reviews of
Montreux performances by the likes of Eric Clapton, Johnny Cash, Steve
Earle, Alice Cooper, The Jeff Healy Band, James Brown, Candy Dulfer, Suzanne
Vega, Nina Simone, Ray Charles, David Sanborn, Joe Sample, Marcus Miller,
Bonnie Raitt, Ella Fitzgerald.....the list goes on and on. With three
decades of great musicians and performances in the vaults I'm hopeful there
will be many more gems like this to come.
Aspect ratio here is 1.78:1 widescreen. Considering the material is 33 years old it looks pretty good; while the overall picture ia a bit soft, colors seem to be pretty accurate and I saw little in the way of print damage or noticible grain.
As with prior Eagle Rock/Montreux releases, there are three options here; PCM stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS Surround sound. While not earth shaking, audio quality is quite good, clear and crisp with a sufficient degree of spaciousness.
Canned Heat is one of those bands that, while having a good bit of
renown dating back to their 60's beginnings, never achieved the megastar
status of a number of their contemporaries. I found the concert to be
quite listenable and particularly liked their short set with Clarence
"Gatemouth" Brown, who virtually steals the show. Classic rockers will
enjoy this disc, as will the blues fans who give it a spin. It's a
curious blend of blues and 60's grass roots rock that, while enjoyable,
probably won't stand out in any pronounced way for the casual listener.
If you're a Canned Heat fan by all means pick this up; otherwise I
recommend that you rent it.