Friends In The Can

Canned Heat

Fuel 2000, 2003

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Ask most people who Canned Heat is, and they'll answer, "Who?"

Ask most people who know something about music who Canned Heat is, and they'll answer, "They were the band who did 'On The Road Again,' right?"

Wrong. They are the band who did "On The Road Again" and "Goin' Up The Country." And they're still very much alive, despite the passage of time and the deaths of key members like Bob "Bear" Hite.

Their 2003 release, Friends In The Can, is both a celebration of where they came from and how they've influenced the blues scene, as they assemble a group of their friends and peers to create a very enjoyable album.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The group -- now closing in on 40 years together -- still believes in sharing the spotlight, as present members like guitarist Dallas Hodge, woodwind player Stanley Behrens and bassist Greg Kage all take turns on the vocal microphone, and all of them do a respectable job. Add into the mix guest singers and musicians like Walter Trout, Corey Stevens, Roy Rogers and John Lee Hooker (in a session dating back to 1989), and you have an interesting bouillabaisse that never seems to taste funny.

This is, of course, a true testament to Canned Heat's legacy. With their roots firmly planted in music such as Hooker's, the group is able to not only plow through songs written by Hooker (e.g., "Never Get Out Of These Blues Alive") and make them their own, but to take the lessons learned and shape some interesting originals. Tracks like "Same Old Games," "Bad Trouble" and "1,2,3, Here We Go Again" all shine.

Likewise, the guests like Stevens and Trout all show Canned Heat's legacy and how they've shaped blues-based rock, even without obtaining superstar levels of success. "Getaway" is a particular success, with Stevens just setting this track on fire with his singing and lead guitar work. The same can be said for Trout's "Home To You," another song which sounds like it's a natural in the Canned Heat lineup.

This is where Friends In The Can is the most successful. Even with constant vocalist changes -- both internally and externally -- Canned Heat is able to maintain a good balance in the music, so much so that the changes are almost unnoticeable unless you're really paying attention. This is, quite possibly, the best legacy that Canned Heat can leave behind -- next to the generations of blues musicians they've inspired.

Friends In The Can is the kind of disc that makes you wonder why Canned Heat fell below the radar of popularity - and, given the right kind of attention, could put them back on the screen before too long. Crack open this can and find out how tasty the blues can be.

Rating: A-

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© 2005 Christopher Thelen 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 Fuel 2000, and is used for informational purposes only.