Monthly Archives: June 2012

Canned Heat “Living The Blues”

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Imagine if you will, a couple of guys setting around the house smoking pot and listening to blues records.  The year is 1965. They get the idea to put together a jug band and jam in the garage. Two short years later they are playing at The Monterrey Pop Festival. Then in 1969 they performed at Woodstock in front of half a million people! Kind of cool,eh? That is the story of Canned Heat.

Canned Heat was founded by Alan Wilson and Bob Hite in Los Angeles, California. They took the name from a 1928 blues song by Tommy Johnson called “Canned Heat Blues.” What do you think this song is about? It’s about a man who has such a bad drinking problem that he is now drinking Sterno!  Now that’s a blues song…

This album was their 3rd release.  This album “Living The Blues” came out in 1968. It contains their most famous song:  “Going Up The Country”.   The line-up is considered the “classic” line-up of this band:  Bob “The Bear”Hite, Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson, Henry “Sunflower” Vestine (a.k.a Harvey “The Snake” Mandel), Larry “The Mole” Taylor, and Aldolpho “Fito” De La Parra.   The album was produced by Canned Heat and Skip Taylor.  Bob Hite and Alan Wilson new more about blues and the history of the blues than anyone else in the world and they used their knowledge to their advantage.    So let’s get to the music.

Side 1

Pony Blues

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Pony Blues was written in 1929 by Charlie Patton.  It was a ‘standard” of the Mississippi Delta region.  It sounds ancient from the very first note.  This song is typical of their “Boogie, Blues” style.

My Mistake

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This song starts with that loose string blues sound just like the first cut on the album.  My Mistake is an original song written by Alan Wilson.

Sandy’s Blues

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Sandy’s Blues was written by Bob Hite.  Very cool, slow blues crawl.  It reminds me of the Segal –  Schwall Band.  I recorded this LP on the Friday of Memorial Day week-end.  I was enjoying listening to it so much I posted what I was doing on Facebook. Almost immediately after I put it on the world wide web, the phone rang.  It was a good friend of mine who will remain nameless.  He said “I smoked a lot of pot listening to Canned Heat when I was in college.”  I’m sure you were not alone my friend.  “It’s the Blues now…”

Going Up The Country

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This is the song that really got famous from the movie “Woodstock”.  Although, Canned Heat played at Woodstock their performance did not appear in the original movie.  The producer used Going Up The Country for the Opening sequence of the film and the song became a kind of anthem for the Back To Nature movement.  This song made it to #1 in 25 countries but reached #11 in the United States.  The song is a reworking by Alan Wilson of the song “Bull-doze Blues” by Henry Thomas.  The song originally came out in about 1928.  In the original version Henry Thomas performed the solo on a type of Pan-Flute that is called The Quills by old blues musicians.  The Henry Thomas quill solo was performed note for note on the flute by Jim Horn on the Canned Heat version.

Walking By Myself

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This is an old Jimmy Rogers song.  It was originally released in the early 50’s on Chess Records.  The song has a very obvious Chicago Blues sound.  It features the harmonica playing of Alan Wilson.  The original featured Little Walter on harmonica.

Boogie Music

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This song features Dr. John on piano.  The song was written by someone named L.T. Tatman III.  I can’t find anything on the guy.  If you know anything about him I’d love to hear from you.  More Boogie Blues and then at the very end a sample of very old original Delta Blues ends the side.

Side 2

One Kind Favor

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One Kind Favor is also credited to Tatman.  The one kind favor is to keep his gravestone clean.  This is a great blues song.

Parthenogenesis

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This is a highly experimental song.  Yes, I spelled the name of the song right.  This song is a medley of nine different segments.  The segments are titled as follows:  Nebulosity, Rollin’ and Tumblin’, Five Owls, Bear Wires, Snooky Flowers, Sunflower Power, Raga Kafi, Ice Bag, and Childhoods End.  This cut was the brain child of Skip Taylor (the Producer of the album).  The writing credit is shared by the entire band.  Remember, it was the 60’s and they did a lot of drugs…I think it is a very interesting cut. Notice that several of the sections titles allude to the nick names of the band members.  Those sections then feature that band member.  (Example:  Bear Wires features Bob “The Bear” Hite)  It’s kind of trippy. I really like the boogie woogie piano part. What do you think?

Side 3 & 4

Refried Boogie Part I and II

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This may be the longest song I have ever seen on a rock album.  It takes up all of side 3 and 4.  The song is recorded live at The Kaleidoscope in Hollywood, CA.  It is a monster jam and I present it in it’s entirety.  I had to split it into two tracks because there is no way around having to turn over the record without stopping the music.  This is a great example of some of the psychedelic jams of the 1960’s and 70’s.  Enjoy….
So there you have it. Canned Heat living the blues.  So what happened to Canned Heat?  Well they are still around.  Henry Vestine was the first to leave the band. He had an on stage fight with Larry Taylor at the Filmore West in 1969.  Larry Taylor left the band in 1970 and Joined the John Mayall Blues Breakers. Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson died of a drug overdose in 1970.  He was found on a hill behind Bob”The Bear” Hite’s Topanga Canyon home.  No one knows for sure why…He was only 27.  Just a few weeks later Janis Joplin and Jimmy Hendrix also died.  In 1981 Bob Hite passed out on stage at the Palamino in L.A.  he had overdosed on Heroin.  Later that evening he was found dead at the home of band member De La Para’s home.  Harry Vastine died in Paris, France of Lung Cancer.  De La Para continues to tour with a band call Canned Heat, but he is the only survivor from the glory days.  With 3 of the band members taken by drugs and cigarettes, it only goes to show that you shouldn’t drink Sterno and if you play with fire you might get burned.  Even by Canned Heat…

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Posted in Blues Music, Rock Music, Vinyl | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments