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Hooker never clicks with rock stars

Mr. Lucky
Mr. Lucky
By John Lee Hooker

Pointblank / Virgin Records: 1992

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

This is another John Lee Hooker "concept" album, following on the heels of the mega best-seller "The Healer." Like the earlier album, this features Hooker – and acknowledged master of postwar urban electric blues – in a variety of settings with various rock stars who have made a mint off of playing blues-derived music.

This sequel features Van Morrison, Keith Richards, Carlos Santana and Ry Cooder, plus several legitimate blues artists – John Hammond, Robert Cray, Albert Collins and Johnny Winter, among others.

As with albums Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf recorded a generation ago with white rockers, the music here never lives up to the advance billing. There are several nice moments here, particularly with Robert Cray (who appeared with Hooker in a KPBS-TV documentary, "Three Generations of the Blues," back in 1985, long before fame struck) on the cover song, and with Collins on a tight cover of Hooker's own "Backstabbers and Syndicators."

But there are far too many flat moments, particularly with the bigger names. There is simply no sizzler here, no snap, none of that threatening bite to the music that marks Hooker's best work.

In all fairness, this is not representative of Hooker's music. While it's gratifying that he is active and recording, listeners are better off with a copy of The Real Folk Blues/More Real Folk Blues from the Chess vaults, both recorded in the mid-'60s.