Because Whiskey & Wimmen pulls from a number of labels for which John Lee Hooker recorded during the course of his fifty-year plus career, this sixteen-track collection represents an accurate all-around starting point for any music lover, blues or otherwise, who wants to familiarize him or herself with this icon of the genre.
Perfectly positioned as the opening track to ensure continued listening, “Boom Boom” may be the most familiar, given that his boogie style evolved most directly from it. Contemporary bluesmen Big Head Todd & The Monsters covered it, with the author in tow, on Beautiful World back in 1997, but Hooker sounds more ominous on his own though, as is also true of “It Serves Me Right,” to which arrangement The J. Geils Band hewed closely on their eponymous debut and rightly so: it defines the truth(s) of the blues.
Likewise, the Doors included “Crawlin’ Kingsnake” on their final album with the late Jim Morrison because it not only fits the return-to-roots concept of LA Woman, but its imagery correlated with the poetry of their frontman. On a lesser-known front, “Dimples” was part of the early repertoire of The Allman Brothers Band, most significantly as the sole song on which founder and guitarist Duane Allman sang lead. The sense of humor within the tune is only partially camouflaged by the salty sense of perspective in the lyric, not to mention its assertive rhythm.
Which puts it in line with much of the rest of John Lee Hooker’s Finest, where the sensations in the title tune, alternately delightful and disturbing, consistently occupy the attention of John Lee Hooker. Thus, “I’m in the Mood,” “Big Legs, Tight Skirt” and the acoustic-based “No More Doggin’” highlight a collection on which the producers did yeoman’s work to compile recording and musician credits to the fullest extent possible (properly denoting, among others, Motown stalwart James Jamerson on bass).
Mason Williams and company also exhumed period photos that, sprinkled throughout the sixteen-page booklet, capture Hooker’s history almost, but not quite, as vividly as Bill Dahl’s broadminded essay: the author correct calibrates Hooker’s influence on British blues. Still, it’s the remastered sonics of the performances like that of “I Need Some Money,” that truly evoke the vintage Fifties and Sixties during which the tracks were recorded. As a result, Whiskey & Wimmen: John Lee Hooker’s Finest, is something of a primer on the blues genre at large.