John Lee Hooker

John Lee Hooker

Come and See About Me: The Definitive DVD

starring John Lee Hooker

No one will contest the importance of John Lee Hooker in the development of rock music. If the segue between roots blues and rock music needed to pinpointed on one famous figure, Hooker would be it. Fittingly, he has therefore become one of the most visible blues figures, visible on television (most recently, Martin Scorcese’s slightly broad overview of blues music) and in films. Come See About Me, the most recent DVD of Hooker material, one of about 15 different instances, ranging from the documentary That’s My Story to a cameo in the perennial, misguided The Blues Brothers. Come See About Me aims for a different goal than the other releases: It is a compendium of career-spanning live performances, using documentary interviews as transitions and bonus features on the DVD. Its self-proclaimed “definitiveness” isn’t necessarily unwarranted.

However important Hooker was, however, it’s necessary to note that later in his career, he didn’t always exercise the best judgment, opting often to play with modern rock musicians to solidify his historical significance. Though these collaborations sometimes have merits, as evidenced by a somewhat surreal pairing with Foghat and a stripped-down performance with Ry Cooder, it can be intensely frustrating to see the phony soulfulness of Eric Clapton and The Rolling Stones or Carlos Santana cluttering Hooker’s space. There must be a cache of older Hooker recordings that were left off of the DVD for this retrospective approach, and viewing “Maudie” from 1960 and “Hobo Blues” from 1965, it is an unmistakably grave error.

Produced by the John Lee Hooker Estate, this DVD, while certainly an entertaining two-hour experience, is clearly an effort made for the posterity of the man (who recently passed away), rather than the legendary music. It’s hard to reconcile his sizzling, hard-driving early performances with the laid-back contentment of his later work, but perhaps the DVD isn’t so much about that. For all of its flaws, it is a better way to remember the man than the contemporary documentary or the DVD of a more recent performance. The excerpts of his early work fully reveal his unique approach to his music and instrument, his percussive and rhythmic nuances to the guitar. Hooker made a major contribution to music in the first two decades of his career, but Come See About Me is a glimpse at the whole picture, warts and all.

John Lee Hooker: www.virginrecords.com/hooker/

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