Alan Wilson review…March 23, 2013…

ALAN WILSON

THE BLIND OWL

SEVERN RECORDS CD  0057

DISC ONE: ON THE ROAD AGAIN–HELP ME–AN OWL SONG–GOING UP THE COUNTRY–MY MISTAKE–CHANGE MY WAYS–GET OFF MY BACK–TIME WAS–DO NOT ENTER–SHAKE IT AND BREAK IT–NEBULOSITY/ROLLIN AND TUMBLIN/FIVE OWLS

DISC TWO:  ALAN’S INTRO–MY TIME AIN’T LONG–SKAT–LONDON BLUES–POOR MOON–PULLING HAIR BLUES–MEAN OLD WORLD–HUMAN CONDITION–CHILDHOOD’S END

 

Canned Heat played in two of the most important rock concerts of the Sixties–the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival and Woodstock in 1969.  Alan Wilson was a founding member of the group in 1965, possessing one of the most instantly-recognizable upper-register vocals in all of rock and blues.  Aside from the vocals, Alan also played rhythm and bottleneck slide guitar, and harp.  The band’s performances in these two concerts, (and especially their Woodstock rendition of “Going Up The Country,” which served as the unofficial “theme” of the concert), set the tone not only for that entire August weekend, but for generations of blues-rock lovers to come.

 

Severn Records has just released a two-CD overview of Alan’s work with Canned Heat, entitled “The Blind Owl.”  It encompasses twenty tracks covering his seminal recordings with the band, as well as some of his more obscure works.

 

The group’s most vital and best-known songs are included, such as “On The Road Again” and the aforementioned “Going Up The Country,” which became a huge anti-war song during the Vietnam era.  The backing band was unparalleled during this era, including Henry Vestine and Harvey Mandel on guitar, Larry Taylor and Tony de la Barreda on bass, and Frank Cook and Fito de la Parra on drums.

 

Wilson was nearsighted almost to the point of blindness and was nicknamed “The Blind Owl” by his good friend and fellow bluesman John Fahey.  Also, Wilson was extremely shy and introverted in his private life, which, sadly, led to his untimely death due to a drug overdose on September 3, 1970.  In the few short years that he performed, however, he was responsible for music that set the standard for future blues-rock groups.

 

Skip James was one of Alan’s heroes, as his signature high-pitched vocals attest.  And, he was always an avid voice for protection of the Earth’s natural resources, as the lyrics to “Poor Moon” allude to.  His almost-scholarly reverence for the blues is evident in his renditions of “Help Me” and “Mean Old World,” while Dr. John adds piano to “An Owl Song,” the band’s first recording with a horn section.  The band’s forays into psychedelia are annotated in “Nebulosity/Rollin And Tumblin/Five Owls” and the set-closing “Childhood’s End.”

 

Perhaps the set’s most intriguing songs are those written by Alan as his depression and anxiety became more severe.  They include “My Mistake,” Hair Pulling Blues,” London Blues,” and the poignant “My Time Ain’t Long,” which would serve as an eerie premonition of his death one year later.

 

Canned Heat were pioneers of today’s blues-rock movement, and founder Alan Wilson was one of the most innovative and dynamic players of his time.  Enjoy “The Blind Owl” and see how his incredible talents have virtually defined a generation of blues-rockers!  Until next time….Sheryl and Don Crow.

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