Canned Heat were the posterchild of the whacked out 60’s era but by 1970 the band were on their last legs, this being their fifth and final.
Written by: Eric
ARTIST: Canned Heat
ALBUM: Future Blues
CD REISSUE: 2016, Iconoclassic Records, ICON 1046 (with bonus tracks)
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA
LINEUP: Bob Hite – vocals * Alan Wilson – slide guitar, vocals, harmonica * Harvey Mandel – lead guitar * Larry Taylor – bass * Adolfo de la Parra – drums * Additional Musician: Dr.John – piano
TRACK LISTING: 01 Sugar Bee * 02 Shake It And Break It * 03 That’s All Right Mama * 04 My Time Ain’t Long * 05 Skat * 06 Let’s Work Together * 07 London Blues * 08 So Sad (The World’s In A Tangle) * 09 Future Blues
WEBLINKS: Site Link
Time flies and I love the sounds of the 1960’s but not all of it and some things never change. I’ve had a passionate dislike for Canned Heat’s biggest hit ‘Going Up The Country’ ever since I was a shy little kid and still wince when heard on the radio or the numerous American television commercials the tune has backdropped in recent years.
It’s hokey, communal vibe reminds me of rusted 1950’s Chevy pickup trucks, earth shoes, patchouli, the Mother Earth catalog and images of whacked-out, half naked hippies dancing in the rain and mud at the overly-romanticized Woodstock Festival. This shouldn’t come as a shock, but Canned Heat appeared in all their ragged, pony-tailed glory.
For this reviewer the band has held as much interest as the poster child of flower power dysfunction – Janis Joplin and most of the enormous and excruciatingly dull Grateful Dead catalog. Nope, not ‘getting it’, don’t care and never will but ‘Future Blues’, the Heat’s fifth album is off the wayward path and as it turns out is worthy of some minor attention.
Right down to its controversial sleeve with an upside down American flag and seemingly mocking the iconic World War II/Iwo Jima photograph dressed in space suits, Canned Heat on ‘Future Blues’ were a band stretching out from the straight boogie rock workouts of previous efforts.
They were also dealing with internal conflicts as this was the last album with bassist Larry Taylor and guitarist extraordinaire Harvey Mandel. Both went on to join John Mayall following the untimely death of vocalist/guitarist Alan Wilson, exactly one month after the record’s release. It’s here that Mandel took over lead guitar duties for the first and last time and his innumerable talents are on full display, giving an edge to the material, half of which was written by the band.
Highlights include ‘Shake it And Break It’ which does have a slight Grateful Dead feel to it and oddly enough a touch of Queen‘s charming sleeper ‘Good Company’ which of course appeared 5 years after the fact, but Mandel and Brian May sound quite similar here.
The dynamic cover of the Delta blues classic ‘That’s All Right Mama’ messes around in the same swampy territory as classic Savoy Brown. Although ‘My Time Ain’t Long’ sounds way too much like ‘Going Up The Country’ part two for my tastes. You can skip the out of place, big-bandish ‘Skat’ as well. However, the haunting ‘London Blues’ with Dr.John guesting on piano more than makes up for the record’s occasional inconsistencies.
Following ‘Future Blues’ Canned Heat struggled both creatively and financially with a series of ho-hum studio albums and tours fraught with problems although they remained incredibly popular throughout the 1970’s and still have a loyal fan base to this day. If you have some extra cash, have nothing else to buy and stumble on a cheap copy of the Iconoclassic reissue of this album, give it a go. It’s all the Canned Heat you’ll ever need.