Finyl Vinyl

Canned Heat

Ruf Records, 2024

REVIEW BY: Conrad Warre


“Canned Heat,” the nickname for the fuel mix of methyl alcohol commonly known as Sterno, that’s used for fondue pots, was the title of a 1928 song by Tommy Johnson.  Blues historians and record collectors Bob “The Bear” Hite and Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson formed and named the blues and boogie band Canned Heat, in Los Angeles, California in 1965 to pay homage to artists like Johnson and to update old blues recordings. In 1967 Adolfo “Fito” de la Parra joined the band as the drummer.  The next year, the single “On The Road Again” gave the band international recognition.  Then the Canned Heat band put on a legendary performance at Woodstock in 1969 where they are documented for posterity in the movie by the same name. Today, Canned Heat continues to record and to make music that is fundamentally… the blues. Drummer de la Parra, the only original member of the band, continues the legacy of the Woodstock era.

With guest appearances by Joe Bonamassa and Dave Alvin, La Parra has put together the album Finyl Vinyl recorded in Burbank California, with Jimmy Vivino on guitars, keyboards and vocals, Richard “Rick” Reed on bass and Dale Spalding on vocals and harmonica as core members capable of channeling the original spirit of Canned Heat.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Ruf Records says of this release: “Musical trends may come and go, but those that truly resonate are timeless. Such is the case for the blues and its offspring: rock ’n roll and boogie music. And just as basic roots music has not only survived but also prospered, so have some of its living legends like Canned Heat.”

This album could well have been composed and recorded in the 1960s, but some of the lyrical content concerning the environment feels especially relevant in the 21st century.

Bonamassa plays guitar on “So Sad (The World’s In a Tangle),” originally released in 1970 and composed by Skip Taylor, the band’s manager for 57 years.  Another cut, “Blind Owl,” was actually composed by Alvin as an unexpected homage to Alan Wilson for this album.

The opening song, “One Last Boogie,” hits all of Canned Heat’s sweet spots, showcasing an exhilarating John Lee Hooker vamp punctuated with harmonica, the vocals a little cleaner and smoother than Hite’s voice would have been had he recorded this but the band is on canned fire here.

"East West Boogie” opens with a plectrum-picked bass line leading into the Middle Eastern sounds of the theme music from Tehran by Mark Eliyahu, an espionage thriller  television show which premiered globally on Apple TV+, a brief harmonica solo, and mashes in a typical Canned Heat “On The Road Again” boogie-groove. It is perhaps consciously titled as a nod to the more adventurous instrumental track by the Paul Butterfield Blues Band’s second album release “East-West.”

Track number six, “Tease Me,” brings the pace down to a more typical dive-bar swinging blues band tempo, carried through with excellent interplay between the harmonica and guitar. 

The last track “There Goes That Train,” with piano hammering chords, could just as easily have been composed in the 1950’s and sung in a speakeasy.  Like many of the 11 songs on the album, the titles all seem to hearken to the band’s recognition that this release might be at the end of the track from them all, but the band is booked to tour Europe and the United States in 2024, so perhaps this won’t be their “final” vinyl release.

Rating: B+

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© 2024 Conrad Warre and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Ruf Records, and is used for informational purposes only.