Hooker was already being hailed as a living legend in the '60s, but by the time of this 1986 release he was a larger-than-life figure, his iconic stature unquestioned. From his earliest collaborations with Canned Heat and on through the '70s and '80s, the rock world never got tired of trying to endear Hooker to a crossover audience. JEALOUS is an attempt to adapt Hooker's lonesome blues to full-band arrangements. Unlike his band recordings of the '50s, though, there's a decided rock edge to his accompaniment here, providing a sharp contrast to the down-home, earthy sound of Hooker's voice and guitar. Organ, electric guitar, and a forceful rhythm section baked in reverb back Hooker on JEALOUS. Instead of overpowering Hooker, though, these new arrangements place the bluesman on a sonic pedestal, from which he sounds like the voice of God dispensing wisdom through the blues.
This four-disc box from London's JSP Records collects an astounding 100 songs recorded by John Lee Hooker in Detroit from the years 1948 to 1952, including his first two sides ever, the signature tunes "Boogie Chillen" and "Sally Mae." Most of the tracks here are done solo, with Hooker's ever-present foot-stomping, although a few feature other musicians on loose-limbed blues boogies. Since Hooker never significantly altered his style during his long career, these first recordings set the stage for all that came after, and he arguably never sounded fresher or better. Four discs worth of this throwback Mississippi bluesman will be severe overkill for casual listeners, but diehard Hooker fans will find this box set absolutely essential.