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Thursday, November 8, 2001

Review - John Lee Hooker ... Is Hip: His Greatest Hits

Artist: John Lee Hooker

Posted on Thu, Nov 8, 2001 at 4:00 AM

In the decade before his death last June, John Lee Hooker's vast catalog of electric blues and signature boogies was rerecorded, redone and covered by countless contemporaries. While those albums won Grammys and gained Hooker legions of new fans, they were more about Hooker the icon than Hooker the artist.

"Is Hip" is a necessary return to the original recordings to remind us of what the fuss was all about. Culled mostly from Vee-Jay sessions in the '50s and early '60s, Hooker's macho swagger and frenetic energy in these tunes still jump out of the speakers. Propelled only by his own primitive guitar riffs and booming baritone, Hooker could imbue even the simplest of musical phrasings with menace and meaning, as proven by "Boom Boom," "Boogie Chillen" and the immortal "Big Legs, Tight Skirt." Although another John Lee Hooker collection may seem redundant, "Is Hip" reminds us of exactly what we lost when he passed away.

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