trageser.com
Music Review

Home
Computers
Book Reviews and Reading Diary
CD Buying Guide and Music Links
Best-of lists
CD Reviews
CDs, sorted by Style
CDs, sorted by year issued
CDs, sorted by publication review ran in
CDs by San Diego bands
All CDs, sorted by band name
All CDs, sorted by album title
Interviews
Links
Favorite quotations
Contact Me



Matching Hooker with rock stars doesn't work

The Healer
The Healer
By John Lee Hooker

Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab: 1989 (reissued by MFSL 1992)

Buy it on CD now from Amazon.com
Buy it now


This review first appeared in the Spring 1993 edition of Blues Revue Quarterly magazine (now Blues Revue).

First released in 1989, this precursor to 1992's "Mr. Lucky" features the same format – blues great John Lee Hooker surrounded by more famous rock stars. It's got great names featured on the cover; the MFSL reissue has fantastic recording quality.

What it does not have is a fair representation of Hooker's postwar electric boogie.

Still, this is – by far – a better album than "Mr. Lucky," so for those curious about the match-up of Hooker and Robert Cray, Carlos Santana, etc., "The Healer" is the way to go.

"I'm in the Mood" with Bonnie Raitt works fairly well, as does "That's Alright" with Charlie Musselwhite on harp. Cray, who joins Hooker for a nice reading of "Baby Lee," always defers to his mentor, so it has more of a feeling of being a Hooker recording than many of the other tracks.

But "Think Twice Before You Go" with Los Lobos (!) and "The Healer," with Santana, come across more as Hooker sitting in with the rock bands than vice versa, so pervasive is their own identifying musical style on these tracks.

The highlights, not surprisingly, are the two solos and a third song in a trio setting – "Rockin' Chair," "No Substitute" and "My Dream," respectively.

This album is a good addition for the listener who has everything else Hooker has recorded and wants to hear what Hooker has been doing in the '80s and '90s, or for the casual listener who might not appreciate the raw style on Hooker's straight blues. But as a serious introduction to Hooker's body of work as a blues artist, "The Healer" cannot be recommended.

Of course, commercially "The Healer" has been a great success and probably outsold all Hooker's previous releases combined. Matching him with the rock stars also garnered Hooker precious radio airplay and introduced him to wider audiences than he would ever have attracted on his own.

All of which is well and good. It just doesn't – can't – add up to make this a good album.