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At home in his element

Boom Boom
Boom Boom
By John Lee Hooker

Pointblank / Virgin Records: 1992

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This review first appeared in the January 29, 1993 issue of the North County Blade-Citizen (now North County Times).

Finally, after two miserable efforts to pair blues great John Lee Hooker with rock stars, Pointblank Records has put the man in the studio surrounded by blues musicians and the result is, not surprisingly, outstanding.

You won't find any Ry Cooders or Jackson Brownes here; Hooker is instead joined by the likes of Albert Collins, Robert Cray, John Hammond, Charlie Musselwhite and Jimmie Vaughan. (Hooker is also featured solo on three cuts.) Adding to the comfortable feel of this all-blues album is the production by longtime Hooker band leader and protege Roy Rogers.

The material is mostly familiar, with covers of old Hooker standards such as "Boom Boom" and "I'm Bad Like Jesse James." Hooker's guitar playing is as incisive and biting as ever; his vocals holding to his patented understated style.

The is the best John Lee Hooker recording in more than a decade; in fact, it stands alongside his classic recordings for Chess in the mid-'60s and ABC's Impulse! label in the early '60s. "Boom Boom" also shows that "The Healer" and "Mr. Lucky" suffered not from a diminishment of skill on Hooker's part, but on carrying a bad concept (trying to make a blues star "relevant" to rock fans) forward.