- Album name: The Best of John Hammond
- Artist name: John Hammond
- Year: 1970
- Number of discs: two
- Label: Vanguard Recording Society
- Collection: Friedman
- Buy it on Amazon: $10.49
Level of familiarity before listening
I don’t think I’ve ever heard of John Hammond before today.
What I expected
This double album appears to consist mostly or entirely of covers of blues classics.
What it was actually like
This was quite good.
I especially liked the electric songs that tended more towards a fast rock or rockabilly style, such as the Willie Dixon song My Babe on side one, which reminded me of This Train; and the Bo Diddley song Who Do You Love on side four, which was my favorite song on the whole record. I also mentioned this song when reviewing Happy Trails by Quicksilver Messenger Service, and hearing it again now makes me realize that someone needs to assemble a compilation of all the best songs with a Bo Diddley beat (and if that happens, I expect this song to be on it).
Others that I liked were in an electric blues or blues rock style, such as I Wish You Would Come Back, Baby, which also had excellent harmonica, and the Chuck Berry song No Money Down, both on side one; Big Boss Man, which sounded a lot like some Kinks songs and had wonderful rhythm and a great harmonica solo, on side two; Baby, Please Don’t Go, one of the best on the whole record, I’m A Man, which had the wildest harmonica part, the Chuck Berry song Backdoor Man, which was slow but outstanding, and Statesbourough Blues, electric but not rock-adjacent, all on side three; and the fast and awesome Robert Johnson song Traveling Riverside Blues, on side four.
There were also a bunch that I enjoyed in a more traditional, acoustic style, often with just one guitar and one singer (and occasionally with some foot tapping), such as the Muddy Waters song Still a Fool (Two Trains Running) and the Robert Johnson song Milk Cow Calf’s Blues on side one; the Blind Lemon Jefferson song See That My Grave Is Kept Clean on side two (I listen to Bob Dylan’s cover all the time, and it’s fine, but I would trade it for Hammond’s any day of the week); the very fast Get Right Church on side three, which was the best of the the just-guitar-and-vocals songs, and had an impossible amount of rhythm pulled out of that guitar; and Drop Down Mama, which also had a great harmonica solo, on side four.
I was highly amused to hear Barbecue Blues, since I’ve been joking for a whole that certain blues songs are “barbecue restaurant music,” but this one was not about barbecue at all, and it was in fact less blues and more rockabilly and I would not have considered it barbecue restaurant music – but it was not bad.
The worst song, however, was Going Back to Florida, since there was just very little to it, with hardly any vocals or guitar. It also reminded me of two other things: first, that I had not been to Florida in a really long time, perhaps 15 years, and second, REM’s Don’t Go Back to Rockville, which was always ironic to me because I grew up there, but which now loses all its irony because, as Gertrude Stein put it so aptly, there is no there there.
5/5: love it