DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

John Lee Hooker – Cook With The Hook: Live In 1974 (2012)

John Lee Hooker - Cook With The Hook: Live In 1974 is an unpolished gem.

Published on June 29, 2012

John Lee Hooker – Cook With The Hook: Live In 1974 (2012) 

TrackList: It Serves You Right To Suffer; Sweet, Sweet Thing; Boom Boom; Whiskey And Woman; Boogie; Encore Medley
Studio: MVD Entertainment Group MVD5302D [6/19/2012]
Director: Bob Boyd
Audio: PCM Stereo
Video: 4:3 Black & White
Language: English/ All Regions
Length: 45 Minutes
Rating: Audio: ****    Video: **

Raised as the son of a Mississippi sharecropper, John Lee Hooker is the living embodiment of American blues. The hardscrabble lifestyle continued as he drifted from town to town, working an assortment of jobs. More importantly, Hooker developed his skills as a guitar player and songwriter. One of his signature musical achievements was to incorporate piano-type boogie woogie into his guitar technique and singing. Despite a lack of education, he became a successful lyricist. His interpretation of “rural blues” became a trademark.

He recorded his first r&b hit, “Boogie Chillen” in 1948. Subsequent hits like “I’m In The Mood” (1951) and “Boom Boom” (1962) made him a blues legend. It is estimated that he recorded over a hundred albums. He was the idol of rock and roll culture, and worked with Carlos Santana, Bonnie Raitt, Pete Townsend. He reached a new generation of fans with his appearance in the 1980 film, Blues Brothers. The awards and recognition include Blues Hall Of Fame (1980), Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame (1991), and Grammy Lifetime Achievement (2000). Hooker was a musical pioneer whose influence cast a shadow over the last half of the twentieth century.

MVD Entertainment Group has released a documentary of a very rare live performance, John Lee Hooker Cook With The Hook: Live in 1964. This quirky 45 minute documentary was filmed at a small festival (Down In The Dumps) in Gardner Massachusetts that was held in the city’s landfill. Somehow, this brief performance was captured on a three camera shoot for local cable TV and is now a small part of the blues man’s legacy. Despite some grainy meandering footage, Hooker offers a vigorous set. From the slow walking blues tempo of “It Serves You Right To Suffer” to the boogie rock of “Sweet Sweet Thing”, he is a consummate performer. With his customary fedora and sunglasses, the charisma of this performer is palpable. Backed by a rock band, Hooker delivers the blues seated in a chair. He is an original. On “Boom Boom”, the guitar hooks and raw baritone vocals are pure and authentic.

What is surprising about this DVD is the quality of the audio. Certainly the guitar and voice are raw (after all, this is blues music), but the distortion is minimal. The lyrics are clear. When Hooker ruminates about the ill effects of “Whiskey And Women”, the straight ahead arrangement is rollicking. Rock and roll artists should be paying into this guy’s estate forever. It’s impossible to count the imitations of the riffs from “Boogie”.

There may be higher quality performance videos of John Lee Hooker. But, John Lee Hooker Cook With The Hook: Live In 1974 is an unpolished gem.

—Robbie Gerson




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