When Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson died in September 1970, possibly having committed suicide, it brought an end to the heyday of his legendary blues-boogie outfit Canned Heat. By the time what was left of the band played the 1973 Montreux Festival, it was crisis point. The group was soon saddled with $30,000 of debt, and drummer Fito de la Parra has written that they imported drugs from Mexico in order to help balance the books between shows.
These live recordings of the show document a band clearly struggling to cope with the problems of the era. The performances of classics like “On the Road Again” and especially “Let’s Work Together” have only a fraction of the power they once held, and the dreary nine minutes of “Please Mr. Nixon” show that even these California boogie heroes could be lured into the worst of ‘70s excess. Die-hard fans likely possess the DVD version that was released some years ago, and to casual listeners Live in Montreux 1973 simply pales in comparison to the band’s timeless late’60s recordings.
// Notes from the Road
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