In many ways, the California Jam was the equivalent of the Woodstock festival to a burgeoning generation of hard rock and heavy metal fans. Woodstock had changed the face of music in 1969; the California Jam took place five years later down the line. During that time, flower-power had wilted and peace-and-love hippy ideals had been replaced by a culture of wildeyed excess…
The quintet on this CD (baritonist Hamiet Bluiett, pianist Don Pullen, bassist Fred Hopkins, drummer Idris Muhammad, and Chief Bay on African percussion) was only together for a week, but three CDs resulted from their engagement at the Carlos I club in New York; Mulgrew Miller is in Pullen's place on one of the two other discs. This is a particularly intriguing setting for the great baritonist Bluiett, for even though he is an avant-gardist, he is heard here playing such numbers as "I'll Close My Eyes" (which becomes so romantic at one point that it seems satirical), "Autumn Leaves," and Bluiett's blues "John."
This Soul Jam release presents one of Hooker's most difficult to find albums on CD, the eponymous John Lee Hooker. It was originally released in 1962 by the Fantasy Records' subsidiary Galaxy label. The album includes a selection of hard-to-find recordings taped with his electric guitar during different sessions in the 1950s, all of them produced by Bernard Besman, the man who helped define Hooker's recorded sound, which has often relied upon heavy walking beats, boogies, and an eerie atmosphere. In addition to the original masterpiece, this remastered collector's edition also contains 8 bonus tracks from the same period.
Thanks to its stripped-down, lean production, Vitalogy stands as Pearl Jam's most original and uncompromising album. While it isn't a concept album, Vitalogy sounds like one. Death and despair shroud the album, rendering even the explosive celebration of vinyl "Spin the Black Circle" somewhat muted. But that black cloud works to Pearl Jam's advantage, injecting a nervous tension to brittle rockers like "Last Exit" and "Not for You," and especially introspective ballads like "Corduroy" and "Better Man." In between the straight rock numbers and the searching slow songs, Pearl Jam contribute their strangest music – the mantrafunk of "Aye Davanita," the sub-Tom Waits accordion romp of "Bugs," and the chilling sonic collage "Hey Foxymophandlemama, That's Me." Pearl Jam are at their best when they're fighting, whether it's Ticketmaster, fame, or their own personal demons.