This week’s column kicks off with reviews of a comprehensive John Lee Hooker singles box and a multi-artist tribute to the songs of Charlie Rich.
‘The Modern, Chess & Veejay Singles Collection 1949-62,’ John Lee Hooker (Acrobat Records/MVDaudio, ☆☆☆☆☆)
This Oct. 7 four-CD collection features 101 songs recorded under Hooker’s name (or “John Lee Booker” on some Chess records). Hooker has influenced many musicians, including Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton and more.
The songs are stripped-down but propulsive, mostly delivered by Hooker, his electric guitar and stamping foot. The nifty liner-note biography reveals much about him, including his many sessions, songs and pseudonyms.
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Disc one favorites are “Sally May,” “Boogie Chillun,” “Hoogie Boogie,” “Weeping Willow Boogie,” the piano-augmented “Let Your Daddy Ride,” and the Thorogood-influencing “John Lee’s House Rent Boogie.”
CD2 continues experiments with overdubbing and additional instrumentalists begun toward the end of CD1. I enjoyed the unadorned but influential “Ground Hog Blues,” the organ-filled “Rock Me Mama” and “It Hurts Me So” (with overdubbed harmonies).
Disc three continues experimentation, but sax and piano don’t arrive until “I Tried Hard.”
“Shake Holler and Run” (a knockoff of “Shake Rattle and Roll”), “I’m Ready” and “Dimples” show how Hooker’s music was smoothed out in 1955 and 1956. This continues in 1957 on CD4.
1957-1962 highlights appear here, many of them unaccompanied. My favorites are “I Love You Honey” plus a re-worked “Boogie Chillun,” a swampy “No Shoes” and his biggest overall hit “Boom Boom,” which would be a bigger one for the Animals a few years later.
Blues fans and individual, less-is-more music fans will enjoy this collection.
‘Feel Like Going Home: The Songs Of Charlie Rich,’ Various Artists (Memphis International Records, ☆☆☆☆☆)
This Oct. 14 CD presents some of Charlie Rich’s top songs performed by a number of artists, including his son, Charlie Rich Jr. “Lonely Weekends” gets a rockin’ cover by Jim Lauderdale that rivals The Remains’ great version.
Other favorites include Charlie Jr.’s “Break Up,” which is reminiscent of fellow Sun artist Jerry Lee Lewis. “Caught In The Middle” covered by the Malpass Brothers, sounds Everly-ish; and Will Kimbrough’s regretful “Sittin’ and Thinkin’” is a wonderful example of bygone country music. Different readers will enjoy different tunes. The title song is both hopeful and depressing, so I won’t return to it often.
This is a great tribute album to a talented artist who had already gone country-politan by the time I heard him.
I emailed Ben Snakepit last week with a review link to his book I reviewed here a few weeks back, and asked about his family. I found that Peeber, the beloved black and white dog featured in all the books by him I’ve read, got a bacterial infection and had to be put to sleep a few weeks back.
Ricky Flake, a former punk rocker and current music fan, lives in Biloxi. Reach him at email@example.com.