The best of 'boogie maestro' John Lee Hooker - The Buffalo News

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The best of 'boogie maestro' John Lee Hooker

Blues

John Lee Hooker, "King of the Boogie" (Craft/Concord-5 discs).

It starts with "Boogie Chillen'" from 1948, just a man and his guitar, Mississippi Delta style. It ends, literally 50 years later, with the same blues on which Hooker collaborates with Eric Clapton. In between, on five discs, is a gloriously thorough and energizing exploration of the music of the blues' all-time boogie maestro, John Lee Hooker.

To listen to five discs of Hooker is to live in a world of inspired monomania that somehow never becomes monotonous. This is a marvelous package- tremendous music smartly subdivided by producer Mason Williams. Here is a whole career, from just singer and guitar in the '40s to life as a boogie blues monarch ready to accept obeisances from everyone else in the blues singer's trade--Bonnie Raitt, Van Morrison, you name it.

In the notes, here is a nice quote from Jerry Garcia about the maximal minimalism of John Lee Hooker's blues: "John Lee Hooker could scare the pants off of you in one or two notes played with such immense authority and soulfulness." And that was true whether telling us "I'll never get out of these blues alive" or proving on record (say with his duet version of the song with Van Morrison) why his music wasn't likely to perish. Ever.

This will do as a definitive Hooker collection for anyone who wants the full range of the man's unique musical power.

4 stars (out of four)

Email: jsimon@buffnews.com

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