Your Complete Guide to the Chicago Blues Scene
August 30, 2012
by James Porter
Photos: Dianne Dunklau
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You know a band has a dedicated following when they can start the show
with one of their biggest hits and then end with a spontaneous jam
session. Only Canned Heat could make that feat possible.
When the band played at S.P.A.C.E. in Evanston recently, the lineup
included three crucial members from the peak years: besides Fito,
Chicago native Harvey Mandel was on guitar, and bassist Larry Taylor was
aboard too, along with utility man Dale Spaulding, who played guitar,
bass or harmonica when needed (Taylor took a few turns on guitar
himself). From the time they kicked off with "On The Road Again," the
band was in full swing, with Fito duplicating the falsetto vocals of the
late Al Wilson. The other two hits were accounted for as well, with
"Going Up The Country" probably getting the biggest crowd response (the
flute riff was played on harmonica). Since De La Parra, Mandel and
Taylor were all present at the original Woodstock festival, there were
the inevitable jokes about not taking brown acid. But even with this
history behind them, theirs was not a nostalgia revue.
Quite a few deep cuts from the original albums were played, including "Time Was," "Amphetamine Annie," "Future Blues," "So Sad (The World Is In A Tangle)," "I'm Her Man," and their Monterey Pop showstopper "Rollin' & Tumblin'" were all present and accounted for, with De La Parra and Spaulding trading off vocals. Mandel got a few instrumental feature spots, including "Christo Redentor," a Donald Byrd jazz standard that has since become identified with Mandel (who recorded it on one of his many solo albums).
Towards the end, there were guest turns from local legends Dave Specter (whose jazzy guitar chordings meshed well with their version of "Too Many Drivers"), bassist Beau Sample and pianist Barrelhouse Chuck. They encored with B.B. King's "Crying Won't Help You," but there was no way the Heat was going to let a show pass by without one of their patented boogies. This grew out of their live shows in the Sixties, and made its' recorded debut on their second album, 1968's Boogie With Canned Heat (on "Fried Hockey Boogie"). The band kicks off a John Lee Hooker-derived riff, and away they go for six or more minutes, adlibbing their hearts out. The crowd, mostly comprised of people old enough to remember when the late Heat guitarist Henry Vestine was in his raging prime, ate it up and loved it. As Hite intoned at the end of the fabled fried-hockey saga...don't...forget...to boogie...