It's anyone's guess how long George Thorogood can go on recycling Chuck Berry and John Lee Hooker guitar riffs. Thorogood's latest album, "Bad to the Bone," despite its predictability (or perhaps because of it), may be Thorogood's best album yet.
It opens with "Back to Wentzville," a rollicking and unabashed tribute to Berry's triplet-laden rock'n'roll. The combination of Thorogood's fiendishly abrasive guitar runs and saxophonist Hank Carter's similarly coarse tone immediately create the kind of boogie-or-bust fever Thorogood routinely generates in concert. And that same spirit prevails elsewhere on the album -- at least on those songs that rely more on motion than emotion. Berry's "No Particular Place to Go," Hooker's "New Boogie Chillun" and the title tune, Thorogood's transparent remake of the Muddy Waters' "Hootchie- Cootchie Man," fill the bill nicely.
Thorogood is less successful when the pace slackens. He was never an expressive vocalist, and his versions of Jimmy Reed's "It's a Sin" and Bob Dylan's "Wanted Man" (an acoustic departure) are earnest but unconvincing. Far better is hearing Thorogood at top volume, running a metal slide across the fretboard, letting out with a real rock'n'roll howl. For the most part, "Bad to the Bone" finds him doing just that. ON RECORD, ON STAGE THE ALBUM GEORGE THOROGOOD and THE DESTROYERS -- Bad to the Bone (EMI ST-17076). THE SHOW GEORGE THOROGOOD and THE DESTROYERS, Sunday and Monday at 8 at the Warner.