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Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Face To Face

Posted By on Wed, Nov 26, 2003 at 12:00 AM

In the 18th and 19th centuries, medical students robbed graves so they could practice surgery on someone who couldn’t complain if their operation got botched. In the 21st century, Eagle Records and John Lee Hooker’s daughter Zakiya are grave robbing to squeeze out a few more bucks from a rich blues legacy. The album will be a huge disappointment to anyone who cares about the blues and understands the primal power of Detroit-born, one-chord boogie.

This limp, unnecessary disc follows a familiar and successful pattern: First, hook up the Hook with admiring rockers and/or blues musicians (Jack Casady, Warren Haynes, Elvin Bishop, Van Morrison, Johnny Winter, Dickey Betts, George Thorogood, Roy Rogers). Next, turn them loose on songs he’s recorded previously, then sprinkle in a few newer tunes and wait for the cash registers to ring.

The new songs are lame; “Six Page Letter” and “Mean Mean World” include cheesy-sounding synthesized strings, while “Loving People” and “Rock These Blues Away” have faux soulful background vocals that sound like leftovers from a Barry White session. And the old songs (“Dimples,” “It Serves Me Right To Suffer,” “Mad Man Blues,” “Turn Over A New Leaf,” “Wednesday Evening Blues” and the seminal “Boogie Chillen’”) all sounded better and funkier the first or second time around.

There may be a charitable motive; the disc packaging mentions the John Lee Hooker Foundation, saying it supports “music and art education for underprivileged children.” But it would be better if you made a donation at jlhfoundation.org and saved yourself the agony of listening to this junk.

Zakiya says in the liner notes that her dad was working on this recording at the time of his death, and that his music conjured up “a bunch of emotions we can’t even name.” Funny … I can name two emotions I felt: revulsion and disgust.

Vic Doucette is the copy editor at Metro Times. E-mail him at vdoucette@metrotimes.com.

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