Tuesday, 2 August 2016

"One More River To Cross" by CANNED HEAT (2016 Beat Goes on 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...You Are What You Am..." 

After a flourish of nine kicking LPs with Liberty Records and United Artists between 1968 and 1973 (not included Hits sets and retro packages) - CANNED HEAT were burnt out physically and emotionally - and their public were pretty much the same. October 1971's sprawling "Living The Blues" double album had barely managed to scrape No. 182 on the Billboard Top 200 - and while March 1972's "Historical Figures And Ancient Heads" managed a little better with a No. 87 placing - their final platter for United Artists - September 1973's "New Age" didn't bother charts on any side of any pond. Even in the month that “New Age” hit the shops – our 'Sterno' heroes were down South recording for another label...

Hoping for a renewal by signing with the then mighty and powerful Atlantic Records - Canned Heat set about recording the much maligned "One More River To Cross" LP in Muscle Shoals in September of 1973 with uber-professional Producers BARRY BECKETT and ROGER HAWKINS at the controls. It seemed like a good marriage - a slicker sound - a rejiggered band - professional sessionmen and the MS Horns in tow...what was not to like and look forward to. But come January 1974 when the album was finally released Stateside (March 1974 in the UK) - the hoped for comeback LP bombed big time and every since has been seen as a bit of a 3-star turkey in a 10-star chicken run.

"One More River To Cross" isn't 'that' bad to my ears. While I'd readily admit it isn't a meisterwork by any stretch of the imagination - I suspect the gatefold LP tanked more because of growing public indifference to a genre that had been turning them on since 1966 - Blues Rock. However - I'd say a reappraisal is due (there's good stuff on here) - and that's where this superb-sounding 2016 Beat Goes On CD Reissue comes in - resplendent here with a gorgeous new remaster, tasty card slipcase presentation and two relevant Bonus Tracks that actually bolster up the reissue a lot. I'm a hog for you baby indeed - let's get to the bagful of boogie...

UK released July 2016 - "One More River To Cross" by CANNED HEAT on Beat Goes On BGOCD 1233 (Barcode 5017261212337) is an 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster with Two Bonus Tracks (non-album 7" single sides) and plays out as follows (43:01):

1. One More River To Cross
2. L.A. Town
3. I Need Someone
4. Bagful Of Boogie
5. I'm A Hog For You, Baby
6. You Am What You Am
7. Shake, Rattle & Roll
8. Bright Times Are Comin'
9. Highway 401
10. We Remember Fats:
Introduction (a) The Fat Man (b) I'm In Love Again (c) I'm Walkin' (d) Whole Lotta Love (e) Let The Four Winds Blow (f) I'm Ready (g) So Long
Tracks 1 to 10 are their 10th studio album "One More River To Cross" - released January 1974 in the USA on Atlantic SD 7289 and March 1974 in the UK on Atlantic K 50026.

11. The Harder They Come
12. Rock 'n Roll Show
Tracks 11 and 12 are the non-album A&B-sides of a USA-only 7" single released January 1975 on Atlantic 45-3236. The A-side is a Jimmy Cliff cover version while the flip-side is an Ed Beyer and James Shane original.

BOB "The Bear" HITE - Vocals (Tracks 2, 3, 5, 7, 8 and 10) and Harmonica
JAMES SHANE - Vocals (Tracks 1, 4 and 6), Rhythm Guitar and Bass on Track 7
RICHARD HITE - Vocals on Track 9, Bass and Rhythm Guitar on Track 7
ED BEYER - Keyboards
ADOLFO "Fito" DE LA PARRA - Drums and Percussion

Harrison Galloway - Trumpet, Charles Rose - Trombone, Ronnie Eades - Baritone Saxophone and Harvey Thompson - Tenor Saxophone

The card slipcase that is now standard with all BGO CD reissues since 2008 lends the release a real classy feel and the 16-page booklet reproduces the gatefold artwork (Drew Struzan's painting) and there's new liner notes from noted writer and music buff JOHN O'REGAN. But the big news for fans is a 'Mastered In High Definition Audiophile Recording From The Original Master' by ANDREW THOMPSON that indeed lives up to the hype on the card slipcase. This beauty sounds amazing and on tracks like the funky "You Am What You Am" lifts the whole thing up - making it feel new again...

22 February 1974 saw the title-track - Daniel Moore's "One More River To Cross" - precede the British LP on 7" single with "Highway 401" on the flipside (Atlantic K 10420) on of those lovely orange and green 45 labels - not that anyone noticed. The Bear steps up to the microphone for the Piano boogie of "L.A. Town" - a reasonably good stroller clearly influenced by Fats Domino Imperial sides from the Fifties. Better is the slinky slide guitar of Hite's "I Need Someone" - Henry Vestine getting room to let rip on the axe – which he does with impressive gusto (great audio on this). Things start to finally sound like actual fun with "Bagful Of Boogie" (James Shane on Lead Vocals) penned by the foursome of De La Parra, Beyer, Shane and Hite. With a pocketful of Rhythm 'n' Blues Canned Heat have been 'poking round' Hollywood in their Illinois duds wearing holes in their shoes whilst they play Harmonica and Guitar for bewildered passers-by. Side 1 ends with that same sense of play when they follow with their cover of Leiber and Stoller's "I'm A Hog For You, Baby" - originally the B-side of The Coasters "Poison Ivy" in 1959. Maybe Wilko Johnson was secretly listening to the Heat's version because that 'guitar sound' Dr. Feelgood specialised in comes screaming out of this track (check out the 2CD Collector's Edition of "Down By The Jetty" where the Feelgood's cover of "I'm A Hog For You, Baby" is one of the Mono and Stereo studio outtakes for their 1975 debut LP).

I've always had a thing for Rock-Funk and this most quintessential of Blues Boogie bands suddenly discovers its inner Allen Toussaint with James Shane's "You Am What You Am" - a fantastic Funk groove that could easily have been on The Meters August 1975 LP masterpiece "Fire On The Bayou". I've always been amazed that Atlantic (the most Soulful and Funky of labels) didn't sense the 'Pick Up The Pieces' Rock-Funk explosion that was literally on the musical horizon in November of that year (AWB) and take Canned Heat's "You Am What You Am" as a 45 and run with it? Maybe the band's history was too deeply rooted in Blues - but I know Soul Boys who buy the record cheap just for that track. They follow that high with a rather functional cover of "Shake, Rattle & Roll" - a Charles Calhoun R&B masterclass done by Joe Turner on Atlantic in 1954, Bill Haley & His Comets on Decca in 1955 and Elvis Presley on RCA Victor in 1956.

Their original "Bright Times Are Comin'" is a mellow 'give something to someone else' song that's pumped up with Organ and those huge MS horns but again it's feels leaden instead of inspired. Things improve with the old time CH boogie of "Highway 401" where Richard Hite's lone vocal on the album feels like a spiritual return to "On The Road Again". Reviews at the time made much of the five-minute Fats Domino 'Fat Man' Medley that finishes the record - but to me like "Shake, Rattle & Roll" - it feels derivative instead of being a tribute. The single sides are surprisingly good - Canned Heat goes Reggae Soulful in a Rock Boogie way for Jimmy Cliff's "The Harder They Come" (if you can imagine such a thing) - while the B-side "Rock & Roll Show" is better than it had any divine right to be.

Even die-hard fans would admit that the album is hardly the gem you would get your knickers in a knot over - but with that much-improved sound - classy presentation and decent extras - "One More River To Cross" is remembered well by BGO and fans should dig in...

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