Top positive review
21 people found this helpful
on 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.