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Canned Heat/Henry Vestine


 
Canned Heat - Human Condition

This 1978 release is significant for being the last complete studio album featuring Bob ‘The Bear’ Hite who died – aged just 36 - of a heart attack on April 6th 1981 after a gig at the Palamino in North Hollywood. At that point the band was midway through recording the Kings of The Boogie album for the Destiny label.
Human Condition was actually made as a one-album deal on Takoma Records at Takoma Studios L.A. during 1977. Bob Hite belts out lead vocals, along with his explosive power-wail harmonica. This is best heard on She’s Lookin’ Good (with Harvey Mandel guesting on guitar): on this track you have the 12-bar groove that Status Quo converted into a fortune during the 1970s… but, alas, the blunt truth is that Quo were much better-looking and marketable.
It’s all unmistakeably Heat but sales-wise, this album – their first on a major label in four years back then - was a disappointment. This, despite the American Rock commercial sheen on songs like Strut My Stuff (featuring backing vocals from the Chambers Brothers) and on Wrapped Up. Hot Money has a classic late-1970s Rolling Stones feel to it, whilst House of Blue Lights and You Got To Rock echo 1950s swing blues and R&B.
Human Condition is complex in form with frequent gear changes – from blues to jazz-blues and back - but at its base is that updated John Lee Hooker ‘Boogie Chillen’ riff that was Canned Heat’s trademark from the early days around 1967 onwards.

Hentry Vestine And The Heat Brothers - I Used To Be Mad (But Now I´m Half Crazy)

I Used To Be Mad began to take shape towards the end of that 1981 tour when Henry asked the tour promoter- a hippie who bikers nicknamed ‘the Hebro’ - if he’d be interested in recording an album: ‘Hebro’ was yet another colourful character and Canned Heat associate. He honed a deal with Vestine and the album duly was recorded at the Mascot Recording Studios in Auckland.

The wide choice of material – rock’n’roll and soul covers, blues originals and new approaches to Heat’s hits - dignify Henry Vestine as a musician who was never content to mark time or rest on any laurels.
Bass player Ernie Rodriguez takes lead vocals on blues-rock treatments of On The Road Again and Let’s Work Together (as well as Johnny B. Goode). Plus, the harmonica solos here are fresh and owe little to Wilson or Hite’s original gems.
And it’s interesting that Henry chose to cover Freddie King’s classic The Stumble: this instrumental was Peter Green’s calling card whilst he was in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. Green’s interpretation has more detail and a jazzier feel than the rugged boogie approach Vestine went for here.
 
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