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DVD Review



Canned Heat - Live At Montreux 1973
Eagle DVD
          Let me preface this review by reminding faithful readers (and informing new ones) that for about a decade I listened to blues music almost exclusively. During that time I considered myself a blues purist and, unfortunately, it made me a music racist. For many years I believed white musicians had no business trying to exploit blues' popularity and musically empathize with the plight of the black musicians and yet usurp their music. Now, in retrospect it sounds as ridiculous now as it must have sounded to my peers and other casual musical acquaintances when I would try to explain to them how much I thought Johnny Winter and Stevie Ray Vaughn sucked and how could Vaughn and Winter even try to pretend they were blues artistrs and etc. etc. I have since realized blues does not belong to a particular culture but is a feeling all human beings go through at one point or another due to life's circumstances. I will say I still love the same blues artists I loved then and still do not feel too much kinship with Vaughn and Winter's music, but I have learned to respect their talents and achievements. I will also say I am surprised at how many blues fans feel the way I used to and will not except other forms of blues and artists into the genre. I am saddened by that and hope it changes so the music can grow.
          Well, confession over. This ain't Christmas or Easter anyway.
          On to the music.
          Founded by record collectors and blues historians Bob Hite and Alan Wilson, Canned Heat was definitely in the second tier of classic '60's bands who nonetheless managed to be at the right places at the right times. While never attaining superstar status, the band managed to appear at all of the major music festivals of the '60's but due to their somewhat generic blues sound never quite made it into the upper echelon of acts of that time. True blues lovers, they attacked their music the same way their favorite blues artists had always done: with ferocity, conviction, and skill. Wilson happened to be  a formidable harmonica and guitar player, who at his relaqtively young age could play with a depth and skill matching his heroes. The other guitarist in the band, Henry Vestine, was also a knowledgable blues scholar and could play blues guitar as if he had helped invent the style. Hite, while a decent vocalist, had a high-pitched keening voice which distinguished him from any other vocalist, blues or otherwise and contributed to the band's love-them-or-hate-them vibe.
          By the time this concert had taken place in 1973, Wilson had unfortunately died of a drug overdose and Hite and company were carrying on with various guitarists and dealing with various comings-and-goings within the band. This show is an inspiration to watch, in many ways. While the blues boom in the '60's was winding down by this time, their passion and feelings for the blues are intense. It is obvious the band members loved blues music and were playing blues in tribute to the people who had inspired them, which is not to say they didn't "feel it". It is obvious when watching this tape that they "got" what the blues is about. It is also intense to watch the band play music without their leading light Wilson. Although within ten years after this concert other Canned Heat members would also be dead, Wilson had recently died and his effect and presence on the band is still very palpable. Still, the band plays as if this concert would be their last and it is very exciting to watch them work their magic, making even some hackneyed old blues songs come alive with the fire in their playing. A special guest on this DVD is blues legend Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown who brings down the house with his inspired guiat and fiddle playing. Even if you don't care for Canned Heat, this CD is worth it to watch Brown throwdown on some blues.
          This DVD will appeal to anyone interested in the blues and also in checking out a band who was right in the midst of everything musical going on in the '60's. As much as checking out their powerful blues music, anyone into the band's music will enjoy the snapshot of the era - which happened to be just about over when this doucment was recorded. The music world, hell, the world itself, would never be the same again, not to mention the band. A great DVD which also comes with a documentary about the band itself. This is truly a wonderful DVD.  - Scott Homewood



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