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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 19 June 2004
You could say that MCA/Chess' various Wolf compilations ("His Best", "His Best vol. 2", "The Genuine Article") have made this twofer-CD obsolete, but as an introduction to the great Howlin' Wolf it still ranks among the best.
The sound quality is not stellar (no remastering), but the songs certainly are.
"Howlin' Wolf / Moanin' In The Moonlight" brings together Wolf's first two LPs, the self-titled one usually called "The Rockin' Chair ALbum" due to the peaceful-looking picture on the cover of a rocking chair with an acoustic guitar propped up next to it...misleading cover art if I ever saw it!
One song has been omitted due to the lenght of the original albums, the liner notes say. A completely meaningless excuse since this CD only runs for 65 minutes, but what's even more odd is that the material from Wolf's first album comes after the songs from his second one, putting latter-day Willie Dixon-penned material before early Wolf-penned songs (these two albums were not conceived as such, they were merely collections of oreviously issued singles as was customary at the time).
But those are minor quibbles. This certainly isn't everything you could ever want from the Wolf, but it is an excellent place to start. Many of his most accessible "mainstream" blues tunes are here, usually written by Dixon: "The Red Rooster" with its muscular, slinky slide guitar riff, the propulsive "Down In The Bottom", the gleeful "Back Door Man", the catchy hard-rocking "Howlin' For My Darlin'" (erroneously titled "Howlin' For My Baby"), and the slightly-too-cute "Wang Dang Doodle", which became very popular even though Wolf himself didn't like the song.
But Wolf's own songs are here a-plenty as well, and those remain his most powerful: From the Rockin' Chair album comes the swaggering groove of "Tell Me", one of the most underexposed Wolf singles, and the Chicago blues classic "Who's Been Talking", a supremely funky arrangement with some powerful, syncopated drumming from Earl Phillips and a great piano part by Hosea Lee Kennard.
And "Moanin' At Midnight" is almost all Wolf, opening with his first hit single, the monster combination of the smouldering, piano-driven "How Many More Years" and the eerie "Moanin' At Midnight". The classic "Smokestack Lightnin'" is here, one of the pillars of early electric blues singles, and so is the menacing "Forty-Four", Wolf's take on Tommy Johnson's desperate "Cool Drink Of Water Blues" (retitled "I Asked For Water"), and a slew of rough, tough lesser-known songs like "I'm Leavin' You" (later covered by J.B. Hutto), "Somebody In My Home", "Baby How Long", and the wonderful early Dixon-composition "Evil".
Howlin' Wolf didn't carry himself with the statesman-like dignity of Muddy Waters, but his performances were the stuff of legend. A huge, intimidating man with a voice like heavy machinery operating on a gravel road, Wolf's early Chicago sides are some of the most awesome electric blues ever recorded, and no-one culd match the Wolf when it came to rocking the house (and scaring the audience out of its wits at the same time).
Wolf is not for everyone...even if you like a good dose of Muddy Waters, you may still be turned off by Wolf's class-gargling roar of a voice and sometimes bleak - or downright frightening - lyrics. But if you are interested in classic Chicago blues, Wolf's classic Chess sides are a must-own. Chester Burnett in his prime remains the most overwheling performer the genre has ever seen.
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MCA/Chess' two excellent Howlin' Wolf-compilations, "His Best" and "His Best vol. II", have perhaps made this album a little obsolete, but if you just want one Howlin' Wolf album, or if you are perhaps looking for a place to start your collection, this is an excellent choice.
"Howlin' Wolf / Moanin' In The Moonlight" combine Chester Burnett's first two LPs on one CD, and these classic songs are a truly essential blues purchase.
When these two albums were put together and released as a CD in 1986, the songs from Wolf's second album, the so-called "Rockin' Chair Album" (because of the cover art by Don Bronstein), were mysteriously put before the ones from his debut. But it doesn't really matter - almost every song from both these 1962 releases is a gem, from Willie Dixon's "The Red Rooster" and "Meet Me Down in The Bottom" to Wolf's own "How Many More Years", "Smokestack Lightnin'" and "Forty-Four", and a re-working of Tommy Johnson's menacing "I Asked For Water (she gave me gasoline)".
Wolf had one of the best backing-bands in the business, originally featuring the raw, blistering lead guitar work of Willie Johnson, but most of these recordings feature the magnificent playing of one of the the most underrated guitarists in the business, the sublime Hubert Sumlin.
This album is not necessarily a must-own in itself, since the best songs are also available elsewhere, but the music certainly is, and this is a good way of getting it.
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VINE VOICEon 25 November 2004
This is the most essential single Howlin' Wolf CD there could possibly be and would make an excellent first purchase for a Howlin' Wolf novice. It comprises The Wolf's first two long-player releases, both what we would now regard as compilations, and was put out by Chess/MCA in 1986.
Moanin' In The Moonlight came out in America in 1959 and was made up of 12 selected A-sides and B-sides from the many 78's he released between 1951 and 1958, all monaural, including such classics as Smokestack Lightnin' and I Asked For Water (She Gave Me Gasoline). The LP kicks off with Moanin' At Midnight and How Many More Years, comprising both sides of his first Chess single, recorded in Memphis by Sam Phillips at what would become the Sun studios, long before Howlin' Wolf moved to Chicago. The songs on this LP are among the most elemental, eerie and powerful pieces of music ever committed to tape.
Equally compelling is the second collection, usually known as the Rocking Chair album, released in the US in January 1962, when the genre was presented as the root of "Music Americana". It contained 3 previously unreleased songs recorded between May and December 1961, and 9 that were on 45's released in 1960 and 1961 (though two were recorded in 1957), but all in stereo. 
Famous songs include The Red Rooster, Wang Dang Doodle, Back Door Man and the Wolf's famous variation of Spoonful (he would have learned the original, fairly dissimilar Spoonful Blues from Charlie Patton) - though all staple fare for a million blues and rock bands ever since, none could match the intensity and darkness of these originals (although the Rolling Stones' Little Red Rooster came close). Most were written by Willie Dixon, who plays bass throughout, though there are a couple credited to Howlin' Wolf and a cover of St Louis Jimmy Oden's Goin' Down Slow, on which, unusually, the recitation is spoken by Willie Dixon.
The division of stereo and mono recordings is not declared anywhere on the CD and seems somewhat arbitrary, especially since Who's Been Talkin' (stereo), Tell Me (stereo) and Somebody In My Home (mono) were all recorded on 24 June 1957.
A note in the sleeve reads, "In our effort to bring you the originals for the cost of a single CD, we have omitted one selection due to the length of the combined original albums." Given the playing time of 66 minutes this is a very irritating message, but in my quest to discover the identity of the missing selection, after consulting several online discographies as far as I can tell it seems that all tracks are present and correct
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The mighty Wolf's albums number one and two, titled, "Moaning in the moonlight" and "Howling Wolf" respectively, are, quite simply, two of the best blues albums ever which no self-respecting blues fan should be without, even though both are but collections of A and B sides of singles. For reasons known only to Chess they appear in reverse order on this collection but that shouldn't put you off.

The opening tracks of the first album, the powerful "Moanin' at Midnight" and "How many more Years", were both sides of his first single. They were recorded in Memphis in 1951, in what was to become the Sun studios, with the great Willie Johnson slashing away on guitar. The rest of the album is the best of the Wolf's early years at Chess (1951 to 1954) after the move up from West Memphis to Chicago. The immortal "Smokestack Lightnin'" is contained in this set as are other classics like "Evil", "I asked for Water", "Forty Four" and "I'm leavin' You". All of these were written by Howlin' Wolf himself (though it's his actual name, Chester Burnett, which appears on the credits) and his excellent backing is largely provided by the Chess house band, Willie Dixon to the fore.

Album number two, "Howlin' Wolf" (more usually known as "The Rocking Chair album") is astonishing. Recorded as singles over a short period during 1960/61 it's a highly concentrated burst of electric blues music which forms the source of most of what we now call blues rock. With songs from Willie Dixon and with Hubert Sumlin on stinging lead guitar - he'd tempted Sumlin to also make the move up from Memphis to Chicago - the album has fire, passion and power to the nth degree. It's invidious to single out any of the tracks, each one is excellent, going from the fast boogie of "You'll be mine" to the slow, brooding "Going Down Slow", the latter originally from St Louis Jimmy but with Wolf more than making it his own. The hulking presence of the man with his harmonica blasting at you, fully comes across in this music. I don't often use the word "awesome" but it really fits here.

This collection is very nearly a two album best-of, only missing a few late singles such as "Tail Dragger", "I ain't superstitious" and "Killing Floor" and, as such I`d recommend it to anyone looking to get into the Wolf.

Before closing I would offer a couple of quotes from Jim Dickinson from the sleeve notes to another Wolf collection: "I heard Sam Philips say that his discovery of Wolf was more significant than his discovery of Elvis Presley" and "The only artist to share the surreal darkness of Robert Johnson".
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on 13 August 2014
Having visited Tennessee on holiday a few years prior and visiting Sun Studios, MCA Studios and the County & Music Hall of Fame I eventually decided to investigate Howlin' Wolf. This was due in part to a friend playing me Smokestack Lightnin', and also because I knew that he heavily influenced two of my all-time favourite artists (Tom Waits and Clutch). It's easy to see why. The blues on display here is primal and raw in some instances, but still hugely memorable and catchy. The musicianship ain't bad either.

This CD proved how great Chester Burnett (AKA Howlin' Wolf) truly was. I can imagine that watching him live must have been truly awesome; videos are readily available on Youtube that attest to his phenomenal stage presence.

Anyway, on to the CD. As is mentioned in all the other reviews, this CD comprises of his first two LP releases (though I believe a few tracks have been sacrificed). Given that this disc contains the original recordings, the music does not have the immaculate sheen that those raised in the 90s and 2000s may have come to expect. However, in my opinion this does nothing to detract from the quality music. In fact in many ways it suits the dirty blues being played.

Personally I prefer the first half of this CD, though I do enjoy it in its entirety. Particular highlights: shake for me, red rooster, who's been talkin', wang dang doodle, little baby, spoonful, howlin' for my darlin/baby, smokestack lightnin', evil.

Highly recommended to those of us who enjoy the more rough and rugged side of the blues.
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on 3 June 2012
From the opening track which still sounds fresh, this is a glorious CD and a house favourite here. Wolf is THE bluesman and a lifelong entertainer who overcame unbelievable hardship to become a world-feted performer, yet he never forgot his roots and his original audience.
Can't recommend it too highly. Magic.
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on 18 June 2014
A lot of cd buying is just to replace old vinyl or to get hold of tracks you already love. All that is required is that it is available reasonable readily and reasonably priced. This was.
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on 3 October 2013
This album is crammed with classics that became the basis that modern music is derived from. I absolutely love it.
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on 15 July 2015
Now I have a copy of the first ever LP I ever bought back in 1962 - excellent stuff from my favourite bluesman.
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on 2 April 2015
Let him continue to howl. I like it.
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