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LIVE REVIEW -- Canned Heat



August 30, 2012


 Evanston, IL 

Canned Heat group shot
Canned Heat boogies on: (L to R) Dale Spaulding, Harvey Mandel, Fito de la Parra, Larry Taylor

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.

Along with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Los Angeles' own Canned Heat were probably the preeminent band of the 1960s blues revival. In a field of many, this band was likely one of the most successful and visible. Originally formed by lead singer Bob Hite and guitarist/harmonicist Al Wilson, the Heat enjoyed their biggest heyday between 1968-70, with a string of popular albums and three Top 40 hits: "On The Road Again," "Going Up The Country" and "Let's Work Together." While time and death unfortunately took it's toll on the band (Wilson passed on in 1970, Hite died eleven years later), drummer Fito de la Parra has kept the band going continuously over the last 44 years. 

Fito de la Parra
Fito de la Parra

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.

Harvey Mandel
Harvey Mandel

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). 

Dale Spaulding
Dale Spaulding & Larry Taylor

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' boogie... 

Liz Mandeville CD
Liz Mandeville's new CD Clarksdale features 11 originals with Willie 'Big Eyes' Smith, Eddie Shaw & Nick Moss. Buy now on cdbaby
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