International/Detroit Blues icon John Lee Hooker (1917-2001) was not exactly under-recorded in his lifetime - he has many albums on many labels, recorded in contexts ranging from Guest Star-studded affairs (Endless Boogie, The Healer, Never Get Out of These Blues Alive) to solo (this disc here). Regardless of the context, Hooker always remains Hooker - stoic yet quietly impassioned, haunted, a self-contained rhythm section, a performer whose accompanists adjust himself to his endless boogie approach. In fact, his stark, bare-bones style is often improvisational, at times almost stream-of-consciousness, so solo is an ideal way to hear him. The rigidity of the 12-bar blues form goes out the window when Hooker is in the house, but he can and frequently does engage in rhythmic stomp of the most primal variety. This set was recorded in San Francisco in November 1962 and previously unissued ‘til this year. Hard to believe, as it’s incredibly well-recorded, considering the time (it sounds like you’re listening to Hooker from three feet away). The tunes are a mix of Hooker classics and unlikely Hooker-ized covers ("Jelly Jelly," What’d I Say") which he adapts so effortlessly like he wrote ‘em himself and the sound of Hooker’s guitar is so vibrant, sharp and in-your-face that it often strikes like a coiled snake. And it’s economical, too: 19 songs in 76 minutes, with the only slight downside being that a few tunes sound a bit same-y when taken in all-in-one-sitting. But nobody says you have to, and that shouldn’t take away from the assertion that this platter contains J.L. Hooker at his peak; maybe it’s not the place for beginners but it should be in the "essential" column for fans.