Antonio Barrada - bass; Adolfo "Fito" de la Parra - drums; Joel Scott Hill - vocals, harmonica, guitar; Bob "The Bear" Hite - lead vocals; Henry Vestine - lead guitar
Canned Heat embraced the dawn of the West Coast counterculture in 1966 and hitched a ride on the rock 'n' roller coaster for over four decades. Although only drummer Fito de la Parra remains from the late 1960s lineup (and he was not the original drummer), the band is one of the few acts to have played both Monterey Pop Festival and Woodstock, as well as the 20th anniversary Woodstock concert held in Bethel, NY in 1989. The group had made a name for itself in the rock press in the '60s when they frequented many legendary venues such the Fillmore West in San Francisco, and the Whiskey A Go Go in Los Angeles.
This historic recording is from a show the band did at Newark State College, in Union, NJ, in December, 1970. Canned Heat was just getting back on their feet and starting to overcome the massive shock they experienced when founding member, singer and harmonica player, Al Wilson died suddenly. Wilson died on September 3, 1970, just fifteen days before the passing of Jimi Hendrix and thirty days prior to the untimely death of Janis Joplin. He was replaced by Joel Scott Hill, another singer, guitarist and harmonica player, who had been friends with the band.
The tour essentially featured a completely rebuilt Canned Heat. Hite and de la Parra had reenlisted Vestine, who had been replaced just prior to the '69 Woodstock show with Harvey Mandel, who, in May 1970, left with Heat bassist Larry Taylor to join John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, thus allowing for Vestine's return. Also on board were bassist Antonio De la Barrada, who had played in bands with de la Parra when both were still in their native country of Mexico, and of course, Joel Scott Hill, the recent replacement for Al Wilson.
Wilson (with vocalist Bob Hite) had formed the group in 1966 out of their dual mutual love for old American blues recordings. The two had started a record collecting club, with, among others, Henry Vestine, also an aspiring musician. Out of that hobby club emerged the first version of the band. The name came from "Canned Heat Blues," a 1928 recording by bluesman Tommy Johnson. (The title refers to dangerous '20s prohibition-era practice of drinking Sterno, a methane alcohol fluid used for cooking, filtered through nylon socks as a means to extract the alcohol content. Johnson, who sang of the evils of this habit, ironically died from drinking this type of bootleg moonshine). The band members had been a big part of introducing legendary blues artists such as Son House, Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, and others to younger, rock-oriented audiences. It was Wilson who played on the comeback album for Son House that was released on Columbia Records in the late '60s; and he also put Canned Heat together with boogie-blues icon, John Lee Hooker, for the historic double LP, Hooker 'n' Heat (to this day, still one of the best blues-rock albums of all time).
But Wilson was best known for his falsetto-voiced recording of "Going Up The Country," a Top 10 single for Canned Heat in 1968, and the unofficial theme of the Woodstock festival in 1969. Few believed Canned Heat could continue without Wilson, but they proved the doubters wrong, A snippet of "Going Up the Country" opens up this show, but in less than a minute, the band is working their way through, "Framed." Next up is a cover of Wilbert Harris's 1959 classic, "Let's Work Together" which the Heat released as a single (charting at #8). The band follows "Let's Work Together" with another cover, "That's All Right," written and recorded originally by Arthur Crudup in 1947, and immortalized in 1955 as the first recording ever made by Elvis Presley. "Refried Boogie," closes this recording, an extensive workout with multiple solos.
Members came and went and often came again, as was the case with bassist Larry Taylor, who returned after his stint with Mayall. Hite died of heart failure before going on stage in 1981, and Vestine passed away in 1997 the day after completing a European Canned Heat tour in Paris. Only de la Parra remains from the classic version of the band today, but the group still records and tours, and their last CD was released in 2006.