Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Top 102 Albums. No 97. This Is Hip
This Is Hip - John Lee Hooker
Time to break another rule. Live albums and compilations were to be left out of these lists but I couldn't resist this compilation because:
A. It was a formative record for me. This was the first blues record I bought and remains one of the best. The snaking, hypnotic rhythms fascinated me and hook(er)ed me for life.
B. It showcases songs from a period when John Lee released no albums, to my knowledge. In fact he released singles on multiple labels, under many names, including, the sleeve notes tell me, John Lee Cooker!
The music ranges from John with a guitar and foot to big band boogie. It's an album full of highlights but Crawling King Snake and House Rent Boogie would be my choice right now. However, there is not a track that isn't classic.
Hooker's timing, the way he stretched the beat to suit the mood, the breathy, almost whispered lyrics, and that guitar sound.... some kind of magic was at work here. Hooker recorded many songs on multiple occasions. I've bought many other Hooker albums since this but to my mind the versions and the range of songs on this isn't equalled on any. From the stripped back soul of Take Me as I Am to the good time R'n'B of Big Legs, Tight Skirt to the spoken blues of House Rent Boogie to the million selling inspiration for David Bowie's Starman, Boogie Chillen'.
There's a bluesman waiting in the sky
He's told us not to blow it
Cause he knows it's all worthwhile
He told me:
Let the children lose it
Let the children use it
Let all the children boogie
Talk about beginners luck.
(Anyone else hear Billy Bragg in the minimal guitar on this one?)