Canned Heat - by Pete Clemons.
That was back in 1966 when they performed songs like ‘Dust My Broom’ and ‘Rolling and Tumbling’. In addition to his distinctive guitar and harmonica playing, Al Wilson also had an unusual yet effective singing voice. And it is his that you hear on the bands biggest selling hit singles.
Famously, Canned Heat appeared at the now legendary Woodstock festival in 1969 where one of their hits ‘Going up the Country’ was even described as the festivals anthem. The bands 52 year history is an epic story in itself with a succession of musicians passing through the ranks, including those mentioned above who are, sadly, no longer being with us.
Yet still Canned Heat continues to thrill and delight audiences. And recently, in Leamington Spa, that’s exactly what happened as the Heat belted out a tremendous gig. It had everything from the obvious hits, extended work outs, improvisation and soloing. The set dipped into and pulled out songs from all the classic albums. And the sound, once it settled, was simply throbbing.
Locally, it has been a few years visited our area. I remember seeing a ‘Naughty Rhythms’ tour involving Canned Heat, Dr Feelgood and others at the Spa Centre during 2001but before that it had been the 1970s when Canned Heat last visited us.
Nowadays, Canned Heat feature two, almost, original band members, in Adolfo 'Fito' de la Parra on drums and Larry 'The Mole' Taylor on bass and guitar who have each been associated with the band for 51 of those 52 years. Completing the band are relative newcomers John Paulus on guitar and bass and Dale Spaulding on guitar and harmonica. And between them they managed to work up, what was initially a seated audience, to one that was up on their feet dancing.
The concert opened with the amazing groove that is ‘On the Road Again’, a song adapted by Al Wilson. John Paulus, bravely took on the vocal part with Derek Spaulding accompanying him on harmonica. This was followed by an Al Wilson original ‘Time Was’.
Off the top of my head, and in no particular order, the Canned Heat set included ‘Don’t Know Where She Went’, ‘Going up the Country’, ‘Future Blues’, ‘So Sad the World’s in a Tangle’, ‘Rolling and Tumbling’ and of course ‘Let’s Work together’ where Larry Taylor switched from bass to slide guitar. They even had time to include a wonderful Harvey Mandel composition ‘Cristo Redentor’.
The night was wound down with one of the bands more epic explorations. A Larry Taylor composition called ‘Fried Hockey Boogie’, where, each of the individual band members get an opportunity to stretch out and express themselves individually. The gig was finally wrapped up with their version of ‘Crying Won’t Help You’.
If I had a slight reservation it would have been that I would have preferred to hear ‘On the road Again’ after the sound had settled down. That small gripe aside, the whole thing had been very engaging.
Boogie music has a pretty sound, it might even turn your head around, sang Bob Hite in 1968. It certainly did just that in Leamington.