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Blues - Released January 1, 2009 | Original Blues Classics

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Blues - Released January 1, 2009 | Original Blues Classics

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Blues - Released January 1, 2009 | Original Blues Classics

The Six Pack series essentially offers EP-length collections of songs by various iconic blues, jazz, and soul artists associated with labels under the Concord Music Group umbrella (Bluesville, Fantasy, Stax, Riverside, Prestige, etc.). Like the humble six-pack of beer, these brief six-song collections are meant to offer inexpensive tastes of what Concord's vast vaults have to offer. In the case of Texas bluesman Lightnin' Hopkins, his Six Pack focuses mostly on his late-'50s and early-'60s acoustic years. For the most part, it's just Hopkins on guitar with a low-key brushed drum kit accompanying him on tracks like "Back to New Orleans" and "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl," with "Black Cadillac" being the lone electric offering. As far as introductions go, you could do far worse than this concise little set that goes down like a cold can of Lone Star on a sweaty Houston afternoon. © Timothy Monger /TiVo
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Blues - Released January 1, 2009 | Original Blues Classics

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Jazz - Released January 1, 2009 | Original Blues Classics

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Blues - Released January 1, 2009 | Original Blues Classics

The Six Pack series essentially offers EP-length collections of songs by various iconic blues, jazz, and soul artists associated with labels under the Concord Music Group umbrella (Bluesville, Fantasy, Stax, Riverside, Prestige, etc.). Like the humble six-pack of beer, these brief six-song collections are meant to offer inexpensive tastes of what Concord's vast vaults have to offer. John Lee Hooker's Blues Six Pack kicks off with a strong pair of understated acoustic tracks from his excellent 1959 Burning Hell album before offering up a spooky live rendition of "Crawlin' King Snake." Another couple of live cuts -- including one of his signature songs, "Boogie Chillun" -- close out this brief set that serves as a pretty nice introduction to Hooker's almost hypnotic, minimalist boogie blues style. © Timothy Monger /TiVo
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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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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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Rock - Released January 1, 1996 | Original Blues Classics

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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 April 1, 1961 | Original Blues Classics

For many decades, African-American churches have worried about losing their best singers to secular music. And inevitably, many of them will, in fact, explore secular music instead of devoting 100 percent of their time to gospel. Al Smith is a perfect example. The obscure singer's roots were gospel, but he favored a jazz-influenced approach to blues and soul when he recorded two albums for Prestige/Bluesville: Hear My Blues in 1959 and Midnight Special in 1960. Recorded at Rudy Van Gelder's famous New Jersey studio, Midnight Special finds Smith backed by a rock-solid quintet that consists of King Curtis on tenor sax, Robert Banks on organ, Jimmy Lee Robinson on electric guitar, Leonard Gaskin on acoustic bass, and Bobby Donaldson on drums. While the lyrics are totally secular, Smith's gospel background never goes away. You can tell that the passionate, highly expressive singer has a church background whether he is embracing straight-up blues on "Goin' to Alabama" and Eddie Boyd's "Five Long Years" or getting into soul on "I Can't Make It By Myself," "You're a Sweetheart," and "The Bells." Smith has a big, full, rich voice, and he uses it to maximum advantage throughout this excellent album (which Fantasy reissued on CD in 1996 for its Original Blues Classics series). With the right exposure, Smith might have become a major name in 1960s blues and R&B -- he certainly had the chops and the talent. But, unfortunately, he never enjoyed the commercial success that he was most deserving of. Nonetheless, Midnight Special is an album to savor if you're the type of listener who holds classic soul and the blues in equally high regard. © Alex Henderson /TiVo