Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Canned Heat: The Very Best of Canned Heat [Capitol, 2005]
Canned Heat was the most authentic of the '60s white blues bands because it was formed by two genuine blues collectors: big friendly baritone Bob Hite, nicknamed Bear, and weird scrawny tenor Alan Wilson, nicknamed Blind Owl. Appropriating likely tunes from Chicago bluesman Floyd Jones and songster Henry Thomas, Wilson scored two unlikely 1968 hits before OD'ing in 1970, and lead vocalist Hite charted with Wilbert Harrison's r&b strut "Let's Work Together." There have been many more distinguished white blues singers than Hite, who died of a heart attack after a gig in 1981, the same killer that took guitarist Henry Vestine in 1997. Doomed though it was, however, Canned Heat's cheerful hippie vibe reflected their pleasure in going public with the music they'd helped rediscover, and that pleasure is still audible. [Blender: 3]