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Reverend Keith A. Gordon

Alan Wilson Career Retrospective

By February 25, 2013

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Alan Wilson's The Blind OwlCanned Heat was one of the seminal blues-rock outfits of the 1960s and '70s, the band every bit as responsible for bringing a love of the blues to hordes of dirty white boys as the Paul Butterfield Blues Band or the Allman Brothers. Formed by Alan "Blind Owl" Wilson and Bob "The Bear" Hite in Los Angeles in 1966, Canned Heat fused the founders' love of classic Delta and Chicago blues music with the new highly-amped electric blues of the era. The band helped bring the music of Elmore James, Son House, John Lee Hooker, and others to an entirely new generation of fans.

Essential to Canned Heat's early success was the band's shy frontman Al "Blind Owl" Wilson, whose Skip James-styled vocals, underrated fretwork, vibrant harp playing, and love of blues music helped shape the band's trademark boogie-blues sound. While Canned Heat is still going strong today, the modern incarnation is a shadow of the original band, and a major part of that was the loss of Wilson, in 1970, to a drug overdose at the age of 27. Wilson seldom gets his due for the influential musician that he was, but you don't get to play alongside legends like Son House, John Lee Hooker, and Sunnyland Slim as Wilson did without having something on the ball.

On March 26, 2013 Severn Records will release The Blind Owl, a two-CD career retrospective that places Wilson's contributions to Canned Heat and the blues-rock genre in a different light. Featuring 20 tracks taken from albums like Boogie with Canned Heat, Future Blues, and the band's self-titled 1966 debut, The Blind Owl offers classic tunes like the worldwide hits "On The Road Again" and the Wilson-penned "Going Up The Country" as well as fan favorites like "Mean Old World," "Help Me," and "Time Was." The set offers up plenty of Wilson's inspired guitar and harp along with the contributions of Canned Heat members like guitarists Henry Vestine and Harvey Mandel, bassist Larry Taylor, and drummer Fito de la Parra, among others.

The Blind Owl also features comprehensive liner notes about the songs by Skip Taylor, Wilson's friend and Canned Heat's manager. Alan Wilson was a blues true believer whose short but spectacular career saw the reluctant frontman perform on the stage at both the Monterey Pop Festival and Woodstock; he toured with Son House in the 1960s after teaching the blues legend how to play his songs again; and as a serious blues scholar he wrote detailed, insightful essays on artists like House and Robert Pete Williams. The Blind Owl collection will help remind blues-rock fans of Wilson's own personal contributions to the blues.

Addition 02/26/13: Word comes from Mark Pucci Media that the release date for the album has been pushed back to April 16th, 2013.

Alan Wilson's The Blind Owl tracklist

Disc One

1. On the Road Again
2. Help Me
3. An Owl Song
4. Going Up the Country
5. My Mistake
6. Change My Ways
7. Get Off My Back
8. Time Was
9. Do Not Enter
10. Shake It and Break It
11. Nebulosity/Rollin' & Tumblin'/Five Owls

Disc Two

1. Alan's Intro
2. My Time Ain't Long
3. Skat
4. London Blues
5. Poor Moon
6. Pulling Hair Blues
7. Mean Old World
8. Human Condition
9. Childhood's End

Photo courtesy Severn Records


March 6, 2013 at 11:22 am
(1) J. C. Martin says:

What a great, almost forgotten talent. Going Up The Country and On The Road Again are two all time rock classics rated up there with Credence Clearwater Revival’s, The Stones’ and The Beatles’ best blues rock. Canned Heat really rocked and really boogied.

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