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Friday, February 20, 2009

HOWLIN' WOLF


HOWLIN' WOLF
THE HOWLIN' WOLF ALBUM (1968)
320 KBPS

From Chris Goes Rock:
If the large black text on the album’s cover stating…

This is Howlin’ Wolf’s
new album.
He doesn’t like it.
He didn’t like his electric
guitar at first either.

…Isn’t enough of a clue, Cadet Concept’s studio head & co-producer Marshall Chess pretty much confirmed the fact The Wolf wasn’t thrilled with the album on Martin Scorsese’s PBS series entitled “The Blues”. Chess, the son & nephew of the co-founders of the label that bore his name, always tended to be forward thinking. Wolf, nearing 60 years old at the time the album was released, had no need to be as progressive. He’s alleged to have told Rolling Stone Magazine the album was “shit” - But also made his opinions known within the album itself.
On the introduction to “Tail Dragger”, the Wolf opens the song with: “Now I didn’t like it, you see. These queer sounds, you see. These electric guitars, they got them queer sounds. Most people still don’t understand it. You know. You know what I mean?” That sounds more like Newport Festival-type rant against plugging in than it does a criticism of this specific album.
On the introduction to the closing track on the album, “Back Door Man” it’s Wolf who says: “Now listen peoples, everybody say they don’t like the blues. But you wrong. See, the blues come from way back. And I’m gonna tell you somethin’ again. The thing that’s going on today is not the blues, it’s just a good beat that people just carry. But now when you come down to the blues, I’m gonna show you how to play the blues. Now you just sit here and watch me.” He may not have liked the finished product – but it doesn’t appear anyone was holding a gun to his head in the recording studio.
One should also bear in mind, the concept for this album was repeated just 2 years later, with Wolf fronting the British version of The Electric Mud Band, with members Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, Bill Wyman & Charlie Watts. I’ve always had a sneaking suspicion that if The Howlin Wolf Album was as shitty as claimed – he would’ve unplugged and refused to cut this (in my opinion, inferior) release.
Sorry, that’s the best I can do. Unless you parrot the artist’s description of this album as “shit”, there’s no one word you could use to describe what it is you’re hearing. From the opening drumbeat to the final note, the listener is presented a set of ten blues remakes with Wolf belting out his trademark gruff, course vocals; tons of late-sixties style, wah-wah guitar effects and a fairly tight (but sometimes tinny sounding) rhythm section. If you came here expecting a grainy, acoustic blues sound; you’ll either be thoroughly disappointed – or surprised.

1. Spoonful
2. Tail Dragger
3. Smokestack Lightning
4. Moanin’ At Midnight
5. Built For Comfort
6. The Red Rooster
7. Evil
8. Down In The Bottom
9. Three Hundred Pounds Of Joy
10. Back Door Man

3 comments:

-Otto- said...

Hmm, RS presents a zero KB file.
Great album, though.

Good to see moodswings reincarnated.

-Otto- said...

Never mind my previous post. Figured it out. Works just fine.

Malcolm said...

interesting write up on this but what it doesn't take into account are the politics of the chess brothers and how they blackmailed a lot of their artists into making these albums. money (and unfortunately not a lot of money) was the prime motivation behind wolf, muddy & sonny boy II cutting these sides. the music business wasn't the great all sharing environment it is now. most of the chess artists had regular jobs on the side.