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Blues - Released January 1, 2007 | Original Blues Classics

John Lee Hooker won many new listeners with his 1989 star-studded comeback album, The Healer, and his 1992 studio album, Boom Boom, was designed as introduction to his classic songs for this new audience. It wasn't that The Healer or its 1991 follow-up, Mr. Lucky, avoided either Hooker's signature boogie or several of his signature tunes, but they were tempered by both a slicker production and newly written tunes. In contrast, Boom Boom was lean and direct, relying on such staples as "Boom Boom," "I'm Bad Like Jesse James," "Bottle Up and Go," and "I Ain't Gonna Suffer No More." This leanness is in comparison to its two immediate predecessors, of course, because Boom Boom is hardly as gritty as the original versions of these tunes. It might not feel as slick as The Healer, but it's polished and professional and filled with cameos -- but this time, the professional sound comes from the seasoned sidemen offering support and the stars here are all guitarists (or in the case of Charlie Musselwhite, a harpist) who never overshadow Hooker. Jimmie Vaughan and Robert Cray have never been known for their flashiness and they give their respective numbers -- "Boom Boom" and "Same Old Blues Again" -- sharp, typically tasteful leads, but even Albert Collins seems a bit restrained on "Boogie at Russian Hill" -- it's as if all involved decided to lay back and give Hook the center stage. However, he's not in a particularly energetic mood here. He's hardly lazy, but he's not inspired either, which leaves Boom Boom as a rather curious entry in his latter-day comeback catalog. The feel is better than The Healer (and certainly the subsequent Chill Out), but it's not as memorable as some of the other albums that may not have been as consistent but at least had distinguishing characteristics. Boom Boom just captures Hooker the professional -- which is good enough to modestly entertain as it plays but it leaves no real impression behind. [Pointblank reissued the CD in 1992.] © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Blues - Released January 1, 1995 | Original Blues Classics

It's a bad sign if the first sound on a John Lee Hooker album is icy synths and it's a further problem if the first audible guitar is not Hook's but the distinctive rounded tone of Santana. These are two pretty big tipoffs that 1995's Chill Out isn't a typical John Lee Hooker album, and arriving after the very typical 1992 album Boom Boom that could be seen as a welcome change of pace; after all, that record might have been tight and professional but it never was engaging. Sadly, Chill Out is also far from captivating, living up far too well to the mellow promise of its title. This is the rare Hooker album that exists almost entirely on a superficial surface: his signature boogie is buried so deep that even the handful of solo cuts here don't feel as idiosyncratic as usual -- they're quiet and restrained, so much so that they barely rise above a murmur. They feel like mood music, which is ultimately what Chill Out is. Sanded free of any grit, it's an album of background blues, designed as a soundtrack to a tasteful afternoon at a coffeehouse or a bookstore. It's the John Lee Hooker album for people who like the idea of listening to Hooker but don't quite care for his music. © Stephen Thomas Erlewin /TiVo
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Blues - Released January 1, 1971 | Geffen*

This 1971 album features John Lee Hooker surrounded -- in some cases, swamped -- by various rock musicians on long, meandering jams that seem to be more showcases for the soloists than for the star of the show. Although Hooker has always had trouble finding bands that could keep up with his idiosyncratic timing, it's not an impossible task, and the musicians on board for this session just seem to be endlessly riffing rather than providing a sympathetic framework for John Lee to work his magic. By the time this session reaches the end, Hooker is far in the background, just letting the band blow, grabbing the paycheck, and scarcely involved. There are lots of John Lee Hooker albums in the bin; pass this one by. © Cub Koda /TiVo
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Blues - Released March 29, 1970 | Geffen

This album is marked by the interaction between John Lee Hooker and his guitar-playing cousin Earl. Earl, who succumbed to illness in 1970, was a fine bluesman in his own right, possessing a formidable slide technique. Many are unaware that the two often performed together, and the band that accompanies John Lee here also backed Earl frequently. The opening cut, then, a slow 12-bar number called "The Hookers" is not about ladies of the evening, but rather about the gentlemen in question. Heard here less than a year before his death, Earl still sounds frisky and versatile, often utilizing a funky wah-wah style without ever descending into the psychedelic excesses that plagued so many late-'60s electric blues albums. One of the most effective cuts is "Lonesome Mood," a low-key, one-chord stomper in the classic John Lee mold, where Earl's wah-wah guitar meshes with Johnny Walker's organ and Jefferey Carp's harmonica to create a subtly shifting, sensuously undulating web of sound over which John Lee works his hoodoo. On IF YOU MISS 'IM, John Lee definitely benefits from keeping it in the family. © TiVo
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Blues - Released February 7, 1969 | Geffen

Overseen by noted jazz producer Bob Thiele, this session had Hooker backed by some of his fullest arrangements to date, with noted session drummer Pretty Purdie and keyboards in addition to supplementary guitar and bass. The slightly modernized sound was ultimately neither here nor there, the center remaining Hooker's voice and lyrics. His words nodded toward contemporary concerns with "I Don't Wanna Go to Vietnam" and "Mini Skirts," but the songs were mostly consistent with his usual approaches. Another of his many characteristically solid efforts, although it's not one of his more interesting albums. © Richie Unterberger /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 1, 2007 | Original Blues Classics

With new John Lee Hooker songs, new versions of old Hooker songs, four duets with and a new song by Van Morrison, Don't Look Back continues the venerable bluesman's string of excellent albums in his '90s renaissance. Produced by Morrison, it also celebrates the 25th anniversary of their first recording together, as Morrison guested on Hooker's seminal Never Get Out of These Blues Alive in 1972. Don't Look Back hits the ground running with a rowdy, thumpin' remake of "Dimples" with Los Lobos; "Spellbound" pounds out more of Hooker's stylistic trademark -- throbbing, raw, hard-driving boogie. The Morrison tracks include the ruminative title cut and his haunting "The Healing Game." Hooker also gives Hendrix's classic blues "Red House" his own rough-hewn, distinctive treatment. © Chris Slawecki /TiVo
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Country - Released November 20, 2007 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Blues - Released January 1, 1963 | Vee-Jay Records

Vee Jay's 1964 album John Lee Hooker on Campus is titled to sound like a live recording but it isn't. As part of the Collectables Vee Jay reissue campaign, these 12 tracks originally tried to capitalize on Hooker's emergence on the coffeehouse/college tours he was involved in at the time. This is an electric album that contains excellent material from Hooker, even though the occasional background singers get in the way, attempting to modernize his gritty blues with a smoother soul sound. All of the Vee Jay reissues of John Lee Hooker material are worth having and are budget priced as a bonus. © Al Campbell /TiVo
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Blues - Released January 1, 1960 | Vee-Jay Records

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Blues - Released January 1, 2004 | Vee-Jay Records

There may not be much running time to this LP -- not even 30 minutes -- but John Lee Hooker gives us value for every second there is, and in a totally unexpected setting. Jumping into the R&B and soul explosions of the early '60s -- or at least dipping his toe into them -- he's backed here by the Vandellas, no less, on all but one of the 11 songs here. And coupled with an uncredited band that includes organ accompaniment, among other attributes that one doesn't usually associate with Hooker, he pulls it off. Indeed, he manages to straddle blues and soul far better than, say, Muddy Waters did during this same period; he's still a little too intense for the more pop side of the field, but he's also stretching the appeal of the blues with every nuance on this record, and there are a few cuts here, such as "Send Me Your Pillow" that would have fit on any of Hooker's far more traditional-sounding blues releases; and others, such as "She Shot Me Down" (a rewrite of "Boom Boom"), that are so close to his well-known standard repertory that they slip right into his output without explanation. And the whole album is short enough so that even if he would have gone wrong -- which he didn't -- there was only so far he could have gone wrong. As it is, this is near-essential listening as some of Hooker's most interesting work of the '60s. © Bruce Eder /TiVo
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Blues - Released January 1, 1962 | Vee-Jay Records

From the vaults of Vee Jay Records comes an abundance of classic John Lee Hooker reissues, featuring original art work, running orders, and budget prices from the Collectables label. With the amount of Hooker material available on the market, some of it is of dubious quality, but you can't go wrong with these reissues. Burnin' was released in 1962 and combines 12 tracks of electric material performed by Hooker backed by a band on ""Boom Boom," "Blues Before Sunrise," "Drug Store Woman," and "What Do You Say." All of the Hooker Vee Jay reissues are recommended. © Al Campbell /TiVo
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Blues - Released January 1, 2009 | Werner Last's Favourites Jazz

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Alternative & Indie - Released October 16, 2020 | Position Music

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Blues - Released July 2, 1967 | Geffen

A decent if somewhat low-key electric set, recorded in August of 1966. One of his better live bands, featuring support from Otis Spann and other members of Muddy Waters' group. The eight songs include Hooker standbys like "One Bourbon, One Scotch and One Beer" and "I'll Never Get out of These Blues Alive." © Richie Unterberger /TiVo
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Blues - Released January 1, 1990 | Stax

A characteristic solo outing with moody compositions and that doomy one-electric-guitar-and-stomping-foot ambience, That's Where It's At! is one of Hooker's sparer and more menacing post-'50s outings, highlighted by "Two White Horses" and a seven-plus-minute "Feel So Bad," which features extended verbal sparring with an unidentified male partner. © Richie Unterberger /TiVo
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Blues - Released April 7, 1973 | Geffen

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Rock - Released July 12, 2018 | Yep Roc Records

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Blues - Released December 4, 1972 | Geffen

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Blues - Released January 1, 1972 | Geffen*

Following the legendary bluesman's popular collaboration with Canned Heat, this album continues his work with mostly younger musicians and predates similar projects The Healer and Mr. Lucky by about 20 years. Van Morrison spans the gap by appearing on this 1972 release and Mr. Lucky. Elvin Bishop, Charlie Musselwhite, and even Steve Miller contribute here. Jazz violinist Michael White helps "Boogie With the Hook" take off and adds a mournful touch to the harrowing "T.B. Sheets," which is much more restrained here than on the earlier debut release by Morrison. © Mark Allan /TiVo
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Blues - Released March 29, 2015 | Nibelung Records

Considering how these dates were done -- first, Hooker was backed by a British band, Tony McPhee and the Groundhogs; later horns were overdubbed for American consumption -- the results aren't too shabby at all. © Bill Dahl /TiVo