John Lee Hooker – Burnin’ – 60th Anniversary Edition – Craft Recordings

by | Feb 27, 2023 | Jazz CD Reviews, SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

John Lee Hooker’s legacy is captured on this vinyl upgrade.

John Lee Hooker – Burnin’ – Vee-Jay Records (1962)/Craft Recordings CR00544 (2022) 60th Anniversary Edition 180-gram mono 180-gram stereo  vinyl, 31:42 ****1/2:

(John Lee Hooker – guitar, vocals; Hank Crosby – tenor saxophone; Andrew “Mike” Terry – baritone saxophone; Joe Hunter – piano; Larry Veeder – guitar; James Jamerson – bass; Benny Benjamin – drums)

Delta Blues may be one of the earliest American musical genres. It was regional, initiating in the Mississippi Delta. Not unlike country blues, the music featured guitar and harmonica. Recordings of Delta blues can be traced back to the 1920’s. Eventually, these musicians became influential in the genesis of rock and roll, soul and jazz. Some of the more renowned performers include Charlie Patton, Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Lead Belly, Elmore James, Sonny Boy Williamson, Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith and John Lee Hooker. However, these musicians recorded for “race labels” including Okeh, Victor, Paramount and Vee-Jay. Delta blues figured prominently in the British blues invasion of the 1960’s and American rock music. Groups like The Rolling Stones, Allman Brothers, Fleetwood Mac, Bonnie Raitt, Elvis Presley, Bruce Springsteen and so many others were beneficiaries of this cultural phenomenon.

Craft Recordings has released a 180-gram re-mastered 60th Anniversary vinyl of John Lee Hooker’s seminal 1962 album, Burnin’. Originally recorded for Vee-Jay Records, this session features Hank Crosby (tenor saxophone), Mike Terry (baritone saxophone), Joe Hunter (piano), Larry Veeder (guitar), James Jameson (bass) and Benny Benjamin (drums). This expanded lineup covers 11 original Hooker compositions. Side One opens with the iconic hit, “Boom Boom”. This is quintessential John Lee with his idiosyncratic vocals, rollicking arrangement and punctuated tempos. The denser sound landscape is effective with tinkling piano, guitar riffs and lower register baritone saxophone. Hooker seems to be executing calls and response with the band. “Process” exudes a slow-burning groove and the comical narrative (…”Lord have mercy on this process hair woman…”) is unusual.. Hooker testifies, and there is a distinctive roadhouse vibe. “Lost A Good Girl” is arranged in a traditional chord structure. The familiar story of a wayward lover is recounted with resignation and first line verse repeats. On “A New Leaf” Hooker’s performance feels like opening a door to adopting a new lifestyle. The jam is “down ’n’ dirty” as the singer swears off drinking and running around. Again, the fuller sound augments the aural landscape and frames this great singer. Common themes of a wife leaving after seven years assume a mantle of authenticity when articulated by a genuine blues man. Hooker gets his mojo back on “Let’s Make It” as the saxophones provide a muscular template for self-confident romantic gestures.

Side Two kicks off with the sorrowful tone of “I Got A Letter”. This relaxed ode to pain showcases low-burning intensity by Hooker. He distills the anguish of romance and the straight ahead arrangement is pure blues. “Thelma” is more up tempo, as the hero declares his unbridled love and passion for this women. His vocals are incendiary and possess a near desperation. In another traditional presentation (“Drugstore Woman”), Hooker questions the virtue of sophisticated women (“.lipstick, powder…”). This duality is at the core of his songwriting. And when someone is moving in on his woman (“Keep Your Hands To Yourself”), Hooker lays down the law in a sprightly Latin-infused romp. Keeping up the pace, “What Do You Say” is a reaffirmation of deep sentiment. Here, the vocals take on a growling resonance that adds to the  gritty essence. The band swings on this one.

Kudos to Craft Recordings for issuing this re-mastered 60th Anniversary 180-gram vinyl. The sound mix (Kevin Gray/Cohearant Audio) is vibrant with excellent separation. Hooker’s gruff baritone never sounded better. Burnin’ is more than a great blues album, it’s an historical document.  

—Robbie Gerson

John Lee Hooker – Burnin’ – Vee-Jay Records (1962)/Craft Recordings

TrackList:
Side One:
Boom Boom; Process; Lost A Good Girl; A New Leaf; Blues Before Sunrise; Let’s Make It

Side Two:
I Got A Letter; Thelma; Drug Store Woman; Keep Your Hands To Yourself; What Do You Say.  

More Information Available Through Craft Recordings:

Logo Craft Recordings

Album Cover for John Lee Hooker - Burnin'



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