John Lee Hooker – House of the Blues

More John Lee Hooker

House of the Blues

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

This 1959 Black Label (Unbreakable!) original deep groove Chess mono LP has some seriously good Super Hot Stamper sound on side one, earning a sonic grade of At Least A++. My notes for the sound of the third track read “very real.” You get the feeling that whatever John Lee Hooker played and sang on that day in 1959 ended up on this record sounding just the way he performed it, live to one-track. 

You may have noticed that records like this rarely make it to the site. Many don’t sound good, and the ones that do usually have surfaces that most audiophiles would find unacceptable. This record barely made the cut condition-wise. If it didn’t sound so good on side one we wouldn’t have bothered with it. But it did — it sounds great, so if you can tolerate some authentic Chess surfaces from 1959, you will get to hear what John Lee Hooker really sounded like on the day he sang these songs.

Side One

AT LEAST A++. We’ve heard our share of old Blues records and this one sounded about as good as any we can recall. The first track is weak, but the second track was full, solid, clear, present and tubey. That’s the sound it should have, and that’s what we heard. It’s right, and there’s no denyin’ it.

Side Two

A+ to A++. Tonally fine, but less extension on both ends, less fullness to the vocal, and slightly smaller sound than on side one. A good sounding Blues record but not a great one.

Wikipedia on John Lee Hooker

Hooker’s guitar playing is closely aligned with piano boogie-woogie. He would play the walking bass pattern with his thumb, stopping to emphasize the end of a line with a series of trills, done by rapid hammer-ons and pull-offs. The songs that most epitomize his early sound are “Boogie Chillen”, about being 17 and wanting to go out to dance at the Boogie clubs, “Baby, Please Don’t Go”, a blues standard first recorded by Big Joe Williams, and “Tupelo Blues”,[20] a song about the flooding of Tupelo, Mississippi in April 1936.

He maintained a solo career, popular with blues and folk music fans of the early 1960s and crossed over to white audiences, giving an early opportunity to the young Bob Dylan. As he got older, he added more and more people to his band, changing his live show from simply Hooker with his guitar to a large band, with Hooker singing.

His vocal phrasing was less closely tied to specific bars than most blues singers. This casual, rambling style had been gradually diminishing with the onset of electric blues bands from Chicago but, even when not playing solo, Hooker retained it in his sound.

Though Hooker lived in Detroit during most of his career, he is not associated with the Chicago-style blues prevalent in large northern cities, as much as he is with the southern rural blues styles, known as delta blues, country blues, folk blues, or “front porch blues”. His use of an electric guitar tied together the Delta blues with the emerging post-war electric blues.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Walkin’ the Boogie 
Love Blues 
Union Station Blues
It’s My Own Fault 
Leave My Wife Alone 
Ramblin’ by Myself

Side Two

Sugar Mama 
Down at the Landing 
Louise 
Ground Hog Blues 
High Priced Woman 
Women and Money

AMG  Review

… [collects] 1951-1954 efforts by the Hook. Some important titles here: an ominous “Leave My Wife Alone,” and the stark “Sugar Mama” and “Ramblin’ by Myself,” and with Eddie Kirkland on second guitar, “Louise” and “High Priced Woman.”