When this two-LP set was initially released in January 1971, Canned Heat was back to its R&B roots, sporting slightly revised personnel. In the spring of the previous year, Larry "The Mole" Taylor (bass) and Harvey Mandel (guitar) simultaneously accepted invitations to join John Mayall's concurrent incarnation of the Bluesbreakers. This marked the return of Henry "Sunflower" Vestine (guitar) and the incorporation of Antonio "Tony" de la Barreda (bass), a highly skilled constituent of Aldolfo de la Parra (drums). Sadly, it would also be the final effort to include co-founder Alan "Blind Owl" Wilson, who passed away in September 1970. Hooker 'n Heat (1971) is a low-key affair split between unaccompanied solo John Lee Hooker (guitar/vocals) tunes, collaborations between Hooker and Wilson (piano/guitar/harmonica), as well as five full-blown confabs between Hooker and Heat. The first platter focuses on Hooker's looser entries that vacillate from the relatively uninspired ramblings of "Send Me Your Pillow" and "Drifter" to the essential and guttural "Feelin' Is Gone" or spirited "Bottle Up and Go." The latter being among those with Wilson on piano. Perhaps the best of the batch is the lengthy seven-minute-plus "World Today," which is languid and poignant talking blues, with Hooker lamenting the concurrent state of affairs around the globe. "I Got My Eyes on You" is an unabashed derivative of Hooker's classic "Dimples," with the title changed for what were most likely legal rather than artistic concerns. That said, the readings of the seminal "Burning Hell" and "Bottle Up and Go" kept their familiar monikers intact. The full-fledged collaborations shine as both parties unleash some of their finest respective work. While Canned Heat get top bill -- probably as it was the group's record company that sprung for Hooker 'n Heat -- make no mistake, as Hooker steers the combo with the same gritty and percussive guitar leads that have become his trademark. The epic "Boogie Chillen No. 2" stretches over 11 and a half minutes and is full of the same swagger as the original, with the support of Canned Heat igniting the verses and simmering on the subsequent instrumental breaks with all killer and no filler. The 2002 two-CD pressing by the French Magic Records label is augmented with "It's All Right," with a single edit of "Whiskey and Wimmen." AMG.
A minor figure in the mid-'70s U.K. progressive scene (his highest-profile gig was as a bassist in Caravan for a couple of years), John G. Perry only released one album in that decade, 1976's slight but charming Sunset Wading. The album's primary gimmick is that throughout the background of its entire 40-minutes runs an ambient field recording of a rural sunrise, beginning with the first rooster crow of the day. (Why an album with an early-morning theme like this has the word "Sunset" in its title is never adequately explained.) Over this pleasantly unobtrusive environmental sound, Perry and a small group of friends featuring producer Rupert Hine, former Robert Fripp associate Michael Giles, and two members of the cult-heroes Italian progressive group Nova play a largely instrumental song cycle highlighted by some delicate musical passages (as on the absolutely lovely "Birds and Small Furry Beasts") that recall both the more lyrical side of the jazz-influenced Canterbury progressive scene and the poppier Italian progressive rock scene. The seven-minute centerpiece track, "Dawn," is the standout, slowly building from an almost Brian Eno-like ambient introduction to a resounding climax. Other, more rhythmic tracks recall the mid-'70s work of Gong and the post-Robert Wyatt, fusion-oriented Soft Machine. Unfortunately, as this parade of name-dropping shows, Perry never quite manages to put it together enough to sound like a new and inventive artist, himself. Although Sunset Wading is an enjoyable and often very good listen, there's not much new here. AMG.