John Lee Hooker – Boom Boom (1992)

John Lee Hooker - Boom Boom (1992)

It’s now getting on for a hundred years since John Lee Hooker was born. Regrettably, he died in 2001, but he surely must remain as one of the most memorable genuine and fully authentic blues artists of all time. It’s widely felt that in the business of popular music, once an artist hits his/her forties (if not before), his/her appeal to the main sector of the commercial market will diminish to a critical low. There are exceptions, but very few artists aged well over 70(!) could have reached out to the mass market, from college kids right through to pensioners, the way John Lee Hooker did in the early 1990s.

Particularly after his track Boom Boom was used in a 1992 TV ad campaign (complete with some very cool footage of the artist himself), Hooker reached a prominent position in the UK pop charts. To be considered an icon of cool in the music business well into your eighth decade is truly a spectacular achievement, and this album showed why John Lee Hooker had such ageless appeal. It’s all authentic blues, with a loose feel the copyists either could not or dared not replicate. The production, however, is of early ’90s quality, so every nuance of the string picking, foot tapping and rich vocal is captured in detail. It’s all very organic and natural, and coming at a time where so many other artists were focusing on technology, this album was a refreshing blast of human feel – especially for younger listeners, who’d never heard anything like it before.

Even among blues artists, John Lee Hooker was highly individual, often refusing to stick within the rigid boundaries of twelve-bar blues structure and inserting extra bars almost on-the-fly. The musicians around him certainly had to be alert and prepared for ‘structural improvisations’. It was a distinctive feature – one of many with John Lee Hooker.

As regards the cassette, it’s on Virgin Records, with the Pointblank branding. It’s obviously not a bootleg so the quality is excellent. Just listening through the title track, with its classic semi-acoustic blues guitar, Hammond organ, lead guitar breaks by Jimmie Vaughan, and of course those unmistakable vocals, has been an exciting and evocative experience. Somehow, it feels more appropriate that this album is on an audio cassette than on a CD.

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