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Customer reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
Hound Dog Taylor & The Houserockers
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on 23 December 2014
An important record in some ways, although not always for musical reasons. Bruce Iglauer heard Hound Dog some time in 1969 but couldn't persuade his boss at Delmark records to record him, so spent a small inheritance in setting up Alligator records just to record him. Alligator is now one of the largest, longest lived, and most successful of specialist blues labels in existence. In another way Hound Dog was also one of the last flowerings of the last flowering of the Chicago blues, because not much of quality followed him.
The band is a trio, with Hound Dog on lead guitar and vocals, Brewer Phillips on second and sometimes lead guitar, and Ted Harvey on drums. It's all high volume stuff with Hound Dog playing fuzzy, distorted guitar, Phillips contributing some raw guitar and Harvey laying down a driving, heavy, rock influenced beat. So, there's plenty of excitement with Hound Dog playing some fine aggressive guitar on 'Taylor's Rock','Give Me Back My Wig', and '55th Street Boogie', and Phillips emerging to lead the band on 'Phillip's Theme', producing a very good solo.
Hound Dog sounds to have been influenced mainly by Elmore James. He plays a couple of Elmore's numbers on the disc and that's where the doubts creep in. Elmore produced raw, edge of the seat excitement, but could couple it with heart breaking emotion because he was one of the greatest blues guitarists, whist Hound Dog simply cranks up the revs and thrashes along. Elmore could holler and cry the blues as a great singer whereas Hound Dog possesses a relatively small voice which sounds oddly lost in the noise the band produces.
This doesn't measure up to the music being produced in Chicago in the previous 20 years, but the band produce an exciting sound and the disc is enjoyable.
On my copy the band sounds well recording and bass and drums are not lost in the mix, contrary to some of the reviews.
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on 21 March 2010
A classic album that still sounds fresh today as it did 37 years ago when it launched Bruce Iglauer's Alligator label with neither Iglauer nor Hound Dog Taylor ever looking back. Brewer Phillips plays second guitar (he uses the bass notes apart from two songs where he solos) and Ted Harvey on drums this is a tight, well produced and enjoyable blues album that rocks along without ever straying into the territory of blues rock. Listen to the powerful and memorable opening track `She's Gone', and you will soon hear the successful ingredients of Hound Dog's musical tradition that can be traced back to earlier slide guitarists such as Homesick James, Elmore James and J. B. Hutto and His Hawks. However, Hound Dog was no mere copyist and he developed and enriched the musical style of slide guitar playing with a harsh amplified guitar sound that critics frequently compared to a chainsaw. Throughout this album his playing is energetic and commanding and it doesn't take much imagination to appreciate how he would have sounded playing live in a South Side Chicago club. A firm favourite with many blues fans, this is a hard hitting, rhythmic and influential album. Buy it!
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 16 May 2014
During his approximate 60 years of life he chucked out a few albums, many of which displayed some very rough musicianship and sound quality. Most of his output seemed to be unrehearsed little jams, fuelled by nothing more than enthusiasm. He obviously had a laugh while he was around and this album is a suitable musical memory of his time. It captures the essence of his musical life. He was no Elmore James but he got by, doing what he wanted to.

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on 14 September 2016
Raw and rocking slide guitar blues from Hound Dog on his debut album. I was familiar with a few of the songs on the album, having heard cover versions, so it was really good to hear the man who's versions influenced the covers. Wild about you baby (Joe Bonamassa) Give me back my wig (Stevie Ray Vaughan) and It hurts me too (Eric Clapton) are dirty and raw with Hound Dog at his rocking best.
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on 26 December 2014
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on 15 February 2013
This was bought for my Son and he rates this artist very highly. It is his style of music and has told me in no uncertain terms that is is great
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on 13 April 2005
I wouldn't lay claim to knowing a huge amount about blues music, but one thread I've picked up from the blues albums that do make up a good portion of my collection is that sometimes blues is more about 'rhythm' than 'melody'. It's a mood you feel rather than a tune you hum - and I consider that quite true in the case of Hound Dog Taylor.
Hound Dog never considered himself a musician of considerable talent, now that's not to do the man a disservice, but he was as honest about his strengths (the vibe and mood he created) as he was his weaknesses. To say this album is sloppy, ramshackle, unfocused, littered with errors, bum notes and wrong turns is to actually pay it a compliment, because it was the style Hound Dog and his band always went for.
The rough, demo like quality of this recording might well have sounded unprofessional in 1971, but in our current musical climate of 'garage rock' it sounds strangely perfect. It's actually so rough at times that if I was the kind of chap who likes to put labels on music, I'd probably call it "Blues Punk", but that sounds so awful I'd really rather not. You get the idea though.
For all its admirable rough qualities, where I would say the album falls flat is in the frequent poor quality of the tunes. Too many of these cuts are just repetitive one note or one riff jams that grind along for less than three minutes but feel like a life time.
"Taylor's Rock" and "Walking The Ceiling" are songs that, unless you have the patience, will have you reaching for the skip button until you can find something that won't drive the neighbours to distraction. Only when you find "Give Me Back My Wig" or "Wild About You Baby" will you have something approaching a song you can hum.
And it's this that could well be the reason why old Hound Dog hasn't been "rediscovered" by music magazines and then cited as an influence by dozens of new bands looking for something with just this kind of genuine grit and edge that they can really sink their teeth in to and draw from.
Approach with a bit of caution then.
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on 5 March 2012
This review is for Hound Dog Taylor and The Houserockers self-titled debut album, originally released in 1971. The CD reviewed is from 1990, on Alligator Records, ALDC 4701.

I'll begin with a quick note about mastering, from which perspective this CD is fine. My ears don't detect any digital fiddling about so it's probably a straight transfer from the original tapes. To be incredbly pedantic, there is some very slight distortion at times when Hound Dog gets a bit exuberant with the vocals, which is probably a consequence of limitations of the original recording set-up, a bit of microphone overload. It's not really noticeable unless you're using headphones anyway, and only occurs for a few seconds on a couple of tracks.

The cover artwork pretty much mirrors that of the original vinyl LP. The quite extensive sleevenotes no longer appear on the rear cover as they'd probably be unreadable reduced to CD sized artwork, so these have been reproduced as a three-page fold out inside the front cover, with a small addition by Bruce Iglauer.

Much as with the band's second album, Natural Boogie, I'm fairly certain this title has never yet seen a remaster, so it should sound the same whether you buy the original 1990 CD or a disc pressed last week.

Before hearing this album I had lived for a number of weeks with Natural Boogie, which generally seems to be considered the slightly lesser of the pair. After being quite impressed by that album I was greatly anticipating finally getting to hear this one. However, it wasn't quite the "upgrade" I was expecting.

Firstly, the mix isn't quite as full sounding as Natural Boogie. It's a bit thinner, flatter, tamer....although paradoxically, the drums are sometimes more upfront.

Another immediately noticeable difference between the two albums is with Hound Dog Taylor himself. Here his slide playing is not as unchained, its more considered, and his voice sounds less relaxed at times. Maybe he was trying a little too hard to get everything right, this being his first experience (at the age of 50-something) at recording an album? Don't let that opinion lead you to believe this is a polished affair. I'm simply making the comparison against Natural Boogie, which is more ramshackle, but also has a more confident stride.

The rest of the band (of which there were only two, Ted Harvey on drums and Brewer Philips on second guitar - interspersing his lead and rhythm playing with bass riffs) sound much the same across both albums.

Special mention has to go to Taylor because unlike most Blues drummers he wasn't content to hold a simple or straightforward backbeat. I don't know if he had a background in Swing or Jazz, but I get the impression what he's playing here - most notably on on the faster instrumentals - is a turbocharged version of that with Rock sensibilities thrown in. He kept those sticks and skins BUSY.

As for the music itself, despite the title of the bands' second release being Natural Boogie, it's this self-titled debut which veers most strongly toward a "boogie" vibe.

Out of the pair this album also has the greater emphasis on Blues. Whereas Natural Boogie's instrumental tracks at times had something of a Rock and Roll/Rockabilly edge, here they tend to be based more on the regular Blues template, with echoes of standards such as Spoonful and If I Had Possession Over Judgement Day making an appearance....which, combined with the more restrained performances/mix, serves to make this the more "normal" sounding of the band's two studio releases.

One *very* minor point of annoyance; the questionable wisdom of placing Walking The Ceiling as the second track, sandwiched between the excellently measured boogie-groove of She's Gone and the smoldering Elmore James cover Held My Baby Last Night. Within the opening 30 seconds Phillips almost completely loses direction with the bassline for about 8 seconds, after which he's clearly annoyed with himself because he hits the strings noticeably harder after he locks back into place...and for the following 30 seconds or so can be heard catching his fingers on the adjacent higher strings. Now, in this age of digitised musical perfection it's always refreshing to get a glimpse of true humanity, authenticity, on a musical recording. But in this case it is too much of an obvious mistake to have been placed in a position of such prominence on the album, between two classics.

But then again, maybe that's reflective of the true spirit of the Houserockers? A band of whom it's been claimed had one rule about never rehearsing before gigs, and another about never taking to the stage before a drink or three, and always played all out for sheer enjoyment. The consequences to that may occasionally be hit and miss, but certainly never dull!

So....how would I rate this album?

Well, I have to put it just below Natural Boogie, which I rated a 4. It doesn't have the same ferocity of slide playing and lacks the great "live in the studio" atmosphere inherent within that album.

So, 3 stars for this self-titled debut.

Although it is a good album, as a whole it simply doesn't rise quite so highly - and freely - to the occasion as it's follow-up.

You've probably guessed it by now, but I'll close by saying it anyway;

My suggestion if you're looking to get into Hound Dog Taylor and The Houserockers is to make Natural Boogie your initial stop. It'll give you a better idea of what the band were really about, and why they were a bit different to everyone else operating within the same relatively constrained musical genre.

It does have to be said though, despite the slight differences in mixing etc, if you enjoy one of the band's albums you will probably enjoy the other almost equally. If you play them back-to-back the experience is much like listening to a double album, although with a much better consistancy of sound and quality than that of the average double album!
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on 28 September 2003
"When I die", Hound Dog Taylor is reported to have said, "people are gonna say 'he couldn't play s**t, but he sure made it sound good'!"
Well, truth be told, Theodore Roosevelt Taylor wasn't the most subtle or technically varied slide guitarist, but he and his Houserockers did indeed make it sound good.
The production on this their first record leaves a lot to be desired (the drums are mixed way too far into the background, and there are times when you can barely hear Brewer Phillips' second guitar), but having Hound Dog Taylor's crunchy, fuzzy lead guitar right up front isn't too bad, and he rocks on the funky "It's Alright", the fiery instrumental "Walking The Ceiling", and a raw, sloppy take on Tampa Red's "It Hurts Me Too".
Other highlights include the slow blues "Held My Baby Last Night", and Hound Dog Taylor's best original song, the superbly groovy, up-tempo boogie of "Give Me Back My Wig".
Incredibly unsubtle and unvaried, and too many mediocre instrumental pieces, but good fun all the same.
3½ stars.
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on 19 July 2011
This is the sound that made Bruce Iglauer create Alligator Records! Nobody else would record them so Bruce created a record company specifically to record Hound Dog Taylor and went on from there. This has to be the definitive bar room blues record, never mind the fidelity. If this record doesn't move you, you must be dead. It should be in every record collection whether you are a blues afficianado or not. Geddit!
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