Fito de la Parra - drums; Bob "The Bear" Hite - lead vocals, harmonica; Larry Taylor - bass, vocals; Mike "Hollywood Fats" Mann - lead guitar; Jay Spell - piano, vocals
There have been quite a few high profile events to commemorate the legendary 1969 Woodstock Festival, but one of the most interesting occurred when many of the original musicians who had performed at Woodstock converged in Long Island's Parr Meadows in Brookhaven, NY to celebrate the 10th anniversary. Unlike later events, this was a true reunion for many of the musicians who played at Woodstock and the audience was treated to performances by the likes of Richie Havens, John Sebastian, Stephen Stills, Johnny Winter, the Rick Danko/Paul Butterfield Band and Canned Heat, among others. Although much had changed in the previous decade and this was a considerably smaller event, the audience was treated to a wealth of memorable music. The King Biscuit Flower Hour folks were on hand and later that fall, they broadcast several highlights from this memorable day.
One of the standout performances from this 10th anniversary concert was provided by the blues and boogie masters, Canned Heat. Much had changed in the ten years since the Heat had played Woodstock, including the band's lineup. Founding member Alan Wilson had passed away and both original guitarist Henry Vestine and their Woodstock guitarist Harvey Mandel, were now pursuing other musical adventures. However, the frontman Bob Hite and the extraordinary rhythm section of drummer Fito de la Parra and bassist Larry Taylor were still firmly intact and just as heavily invested in the blues as they ever were. For this event, the core band was augmented by two choice musicians who were outstanding instrumentalists in their own right: blind pianist Jay Spell, who added his own bluesy barrelhouse keyboard flavorings to the proceedings (and who had a singing voice that was uncannily similar to that of founding member Alan Wilson) and Mike "Hollywood Fats" Mann on guitar, who was a first-rate blues guitarist who helped revitalize the momentum of earlier lineups. Just two years after this memorable night, Bob Hite would pass away after years of heavy drug and alcohol abuse, and shortly afterward Mike Mann would suffer the same fate. The loss of these two great talents and champions of the blues cannot be overestimated, but thanks to this complete recording of Canned Heat's set, one can enjoy these two greats performing together before an extremely receptive audience.
Immediately following the group's introduction, Bob Hite inquires the audience, "Are you ready to raise a little hell?" and then along with his bandmembers, proceeds to do just that. They kick it off with "On The Road Again," featuring Jay Spell sounding frighteningly similar to Alan Wilson on vocals and pounding out a great piano solo, while Hite blows harp embellishments over the smoldering groove. The party continues with Hite reaching way back into the band's catalogue for "Bullfrog Blues," the track that kicked off the band's debut album back in 1967. No Canned Heat set is complete without some boogie music and next up is a fine example. Jay Spell rips into "Chicken Shack Boogie" with frenetic piano playing that propels the band along and Mike Mann takes his first serious solo of the evening.
The group isn't just locked into past accomplishments here. In the next number, "Stand Up (For What You Are)," Bob Hite encourages everyone to let go of the past and enjoy the here and now. The "Going Up The Country" that follows, again lets Jay Spell channel Alan Wilson as he lays down plenty of piano grooves. Another new one follows and it's a rare opportunity to hear Larry Taylor front the band on an energetic romp through "Don't Know Where She Went (She Split)." Taylor and Hite together take lead vocals on this number and both Mann and Spell get solo spots to shine.
A rare opportunity to hear a live reading on "Human Condition" is next. Hite dedicates this rarely played number to Alan Wilson (who wrote and originally sang it) and while it is considerably revamped compared to the Future Blues original, it is here that the group gets a chance to stretch out and jam a bit. This is certainly one of the standout performances of Canned Heat's set, with Bob Hite taking the vocals with extended solos from Mann, Spell and Taylor.
This all leads up to the smokin' conclusion of the set, "Shake 'N' Boogie," which is a barnburner of the highest caliber. Fans of Canned Heat will recognize this immediately, as it is essentially the classic "Refried Boogie" that they always concluded their sets with. An improvisational exercise on the basic up-tempo boogie theme, this allows Mike Mann to soar on guitar throughout while Hite improvises vocals and gets the audience on their feet and dancing. Fito takes a brief drum solo in the middle and then it's back into a searing vamp as Hite introduces the band members. Then they bring it to a close, but not before Hite reminds this audience, just like the original Woodstock audience ten years prior, "Don't forget to boogie!"
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