John Lee Hooker - King Of The Boogie album review

Five-CD celebration of the influential blues legend

Cover art for John Lee Hooker - King Of The Boogie album

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Unlike many of the blues giants who mapped out the sonic and psychic territory for future generations, multi-Grammy-winner John Lee Hooker lived to see his work rewarded and enjoy the spoils.

The final disc in this collection (With Friends) shows just how far his music reached and the voluminous cast of those who benefitted from his inimitably rowdy, implacable fearsome and determined sound.

Stoicism and unchanging resolve are the keynotes that tie together Hooker’s earliest primal foot-stomping solo tracks Boogie Chillen (a 1948 hit), the bopping and punchy 60s R&B sides (Boom Boom), and full-band final Healer-era recordings with Eric, Van and Carlos.

The rural/electric blues crossover soundtracks Hooker’s journey from Deep South sharecropper shack to big city Detroit and Chicago blues, his rhythmic drive and lyrical ingenuity proving ageless and all-conquering.

With 100 albums released in his lifetime, five CDs can only scratch the surface of Planet Hooker; stellar albums with Canned Heat and The Groundhogs are represented with one track each. Nonetheless, there are some choice previously unreleased tracks nestling beside the standard classics and deeper catalogue cuts.

All told, this is a finely detailed and lovingly curated tribute to one of the true greats.

Gavin Martin

Late NME, Daily Mirror and Classic Rock writer Gavin Martin started writing about music in 1977 when he published his hand-written fanzine Alternative Ulster in Belfast. He moved to London in 1980 to become the NME’s Media Editor and features writer, where he interviewed the Sex Pistols, Joe Strummer, Pete Townshend, U2, Bruce Springsteen, Ian Dury, Killing Joke, Neil Young, REM, Sting, Marvin Gaye, Leonard Cohen, Nina Simone, James Brown, Willie Nelson, Willie Dixon, Madonna and a host of others. He was also published in The Times, Guardian, Independent, Loaded, GQ and Uncut, he had pieces on Michael Jackson, Van Morrison and Frank Sinatra featured in The Faber Book Of Pop and Rock ’N’ Roll Is Here To Stay, and was the Daily Mirror’s regular music critic from 2001. He died in 2022.