John Lee Hooker – The Healer

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Album Review by Marcus Deutsch

Now that Miles Davis is dead John Lee Hooker can probably make a legitimate claim for the title of coolest man on the planet. Incredible really that a man who was born during World War I, and made his recording debut half a century ago should still be recording, touring and influencing just about anyone who ever picks up an electric guitar. As Time magazine put it: “[he] doesn’t just play the Blues … he is the Blues.

Welcome then that THE HEALER, the 1989 album which did much to reignite his career, (after interest in the Blues had waned in that most musically careless of decades), has now been reissued. The decision to re-release now has more to do with the desperate scramble to put out anything with Carlos Santana on it, than any desire to reacquaint a new generation with Hooker’s unique gifts. But any excuse will do. Señor Santana lends his fedora, shades, and liquid fretwork to the title track, a brilliant and atmospheric jam-session that introduced the world to the enticing possibility of “Latin Blues”.

And Carlos isn’t the only fan-turned-collaborator here: Los Lobos, Canned Heat, Robert Cray and Keith Richards (just to name a few) lend a hand, and there’s even an unlikely duet with Bonnie Raitt on “I’m in the Mood”.

Many of Hookers most po-faced of aficionados no doubt will screw up their faces, tut, and mumble “sell-out” into their bourbons, but there is also much of the great man doing what he does best; sitting alone with nothing but that extraordinary spiky guitar-playing and his leather and axle-grease voice.

A neglected classic: if you don’t have any Blues albums in your collection, buy this as a matter of course. As the man says “The Blues is a healer / the Blues will heal you.

5 stars