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Blues - Released July 7, 2008 | Ace Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Blues - Released January 1, 1966 | Geffen* Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Blues - Released January 1, 1995 | Original Blues Classics

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Blues - Released January 1, 2007 | Concord Records, Inc.

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Blues - Released March 31, 2017 | Vee-Jay Records

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Rock - Released January 1, 2007 | Concord Records, Inc.

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
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Blues - Released January 1, 1971 | EMI - EMI Records (USA)

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Blues - Released January 1, 1991 | Concord Records, Inc.

This 1959 recording is just John Lee Hooker, his acoustic guitar and his voice. What's deceptively complex in his enormous body of work is the way he conjures dark moods and hypnotic rhythms from the simplest of components--sometimes only one or two chords. Hooker has roots in the Mississippi Delta blues, specifically Charlie Patton, and he's the only latter day bluesman with direct ties to that era (he was born in 1920). Whether abetted by a rhythm section or stripped down to basics, Hooker uses modal chords and endlessly snaking grooves. The rhythm of his guitar chugs along hypnotically under his supple voice, which can turn from a plaint to a growl in a flash. This set is both the map to a hidden treasure and the treasure itself.
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Blues - Released January 1, 2007 | Shout Factory Records

John Lee Hooker's recordings for Virgin/Point Blank may have varied in quality, but never in formula. Once The Healer earned reams of praise and, more importantly, solid sales upon its 1989 release, it was pretty much set in stone that every future Hooker album would be painstakingly constructed and boast a plethora of superstar cameos. The guest stars were designed to bring in a larger audience, who would hopefully be impressed enough to stick around for Hooker's solid stuff, which was usually better than the attention-grabbing, star-studded tracks. Of course, the names are what sold, and Virgin did not overlook that fact, choosing to assemble a collection of highlights titled The Best of Friends in 1998. The title refers to the superstar duets, and while this very well may be the best of those cuts -- well, almost all of the duets are here, including both the sublime ("I Cover the Waterfront," with Van Morrison) and the mediocre -- this stuff still isn't as good as Hooker's solo recordings from this era. Which means this disc is primarily for listeners who like to think they like Hooker, but they really just want to hear Eric Clapton wail away. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Blues - Released September 24, 2012 | Ace Records

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Blues - Released February 7, 1969 | Capitol Records, LLC

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
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Blues - Released January 1, 1971 | Geffen* Records

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
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Blues - Released January 1, 2013 | Geffen* Records

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Given Hooker's unpredictable timing and piss-poor track record recording with bands, this 1965 one-off session for the jazz label Impulse! would be a recipe for disaster. But with Panama Francis on drums, Milt Hinton on bass, and Barry Galbraith on second guitar, the result is some of the best John Lee Hooker material with a band that you're likely to come across. The other musicians stay in the pocket, never overplaying or trying to get Hooker to make chord changes he has no intention of making. This record should be played for every artist who records with Hooker nowadays, as it's a textbook example of how exactly to back the old master. The most surreal moment occurs when William Wells blows some totally cool trombone on Hooker's version of Berry Gordy's "Money." If you run across this one in a pile of 500 other John Lee Hooker CDs, grab it; it's one of the good ones. ~ Cub Koda
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Blues - Released October 6, 2017 | Craft Recordings

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Blues - Released January 1, 1998 | Geffen*

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Blues - Released January 1, 1998 | Vee-Jay Records

Winding through the literally hundreds of titles in John Lee Hooker's catalog is a daunting task for even the most seasoned and learned blues connoisseur. This is especially true when considering Hooker recorded under more than a dozen aliases for as many labels during the late '40s, '50s, and early '60s. I'm John Lee Hooker was first issued in 1959 during his tenure with Vee Jay and is "the Hook" in his element as well as prime. Although many of these titles were initially cut for Los Angeles-based Modern Records in the early '50s, the recordings heard here are said to best reflect Hooker's often-emulated straight-ahead primitive Detroit and Chicago blues styles. The sessions here comprise I'm John Lee Hooker, with its 12 tracks taken from six sessions spread over the course of four years (1955-1959). Hooker works both solo -- accompanied only by his own percussive guitar and the solid backbeat of his foot rhythmically pulsating against plywood -- as well as in several different small-combo settings. Unlike the diluted, pop-oriented blues that first came to prominence in the wake of the British Invasion of the early to mid-'60s, the music on this album is infinitely more authentic in presentation. As the track list indicates, I'm John Lee Hooker includes many of his best-known and best-loved works. Right out of the gate comes the guttural rumble-tumble of "Dimples" in its best-known form; indeed, it can be directly traced to -- and is likewise acknowledged by -- notable purveyors of Brit rock such as Eric Burdon, who incorporated it into the earliest incarnation of the Animals, the Spencer Davis Group, and the decidedly more roots-influenced Duane Allman. Another of Hooker's widely covered signature tunes featured on this volume is "Boogie Chillun." This rendering is arguably the most recognizable in the plethora of versions that have seemingly appeared on every Hooker-related compilation available. Additionally, this version was prominently featured in The Blues Brothers movie as well as countless other films and adverts. Likewise, a seminal solo "Crawlin' King Snake" is included here. The tune became not only a staple of Hooker's, it was also prominently included on the Doors' L.A. Woman and covered by notable bluesmen Albert King, B.B. King, and Big Joe Williams, whose version pre-dates this one by several decades. I'm John Lee Hooker is one of the great blues collections of the post-World War II era. Time has, if anything, only reinforced the significance of the album. It belongs in every blues enthusiast's collection without reservation. ~ Lindsay Planer
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Blues - Released January 1, 1966 | Geffen*

Listeners wanting to find a comprehensive collection of Hooker's work may not find it here, but they certainly won't be disappointed once the needle hits the grooves on this solid 1966 Chess release by the blues master. Featuring nine Hooker originals, the set is a fetching mix of raucously fun up-tempo cuts ("Let's Go Out Tonight") and starkly slow classics ("Stella Mae"). And in between, one can sample classics like "I'm in the Mood" and the incredible ballad closer, "The Waterfront." ~ Stephen Cook
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Blues - Released January 1, 2004 | Concord Records, Inc.

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
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Blues - Released January 1, 1959 | Geffen* Records