Howlin Wolf
Howlin' Wolf



by ffs USER (56 Reviews)
August 7th, 2023 | 12 replies

Release Date: 1962 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Great googly moogly

Back in the 50s, while the jazz cats were still figuring out the difference between their instruments and their dicks, Howlin' Wolf and his blues contemporaries had already honed their sound to fuck. By slowcooking fistfuls of the original salt-of-the-earth delta blues flavour with a more intense and modern electric style, the characteristic "full heart and troubled spirit" of that folkier, isolated Memphis blues sound permeated into something smokier, more audacious and thoroughly red-blooded.

Establishing his name with singles throughout the 50s that culminated in his 1959 compilation Moanin' At Midnight, Wolf subsequently released this self-titled compliation of tracks recorded in the late 50s to early 60s (though likely heard in the clubs of Chicago much earlier) which was also known as The Rocking Chair Album, and cemented his reputation for, well, rocking. Though most of the songs here were actually written by long-time collaborator and electric blues mastermind Willie Dixon, for all his influence behind the scenes Dixon could never compete with such a compelling and commanding stage presence; despite his significant guitar, harmonica and songwriting chops, Wolf superseded all of that mechanical technique with magnetic soulful intensity. Indeed, in Chicago blues became more active, charismatic and larger than life, and Wolf was the most charismatic (and largest) of all. Every track here is steeped in his braggadacio and swagger, and nearly every racy lyric like a knowing wink to the listener.

While the Chicago scene meant that collaboration and access to modern recording equipment was easier for the likes of Wolf, blues singles generally remained under oppressive restrictions from recording companies when it came to much in the way of compositional creativity - a fact that makes how undeniably tight the writing is on all of these tracks all the more impressive. Guitar licks harder than those from a tiger on catnip, pepperings of jangly piano, emotive harmonica and boisterous drumming all bring the tracks to life with refined immediacy. Presiding is Wolf himself, a man singing as if his life depended on it, his iconic voice rich and rugged as he drawls, calls and bawls out the lyrics or adds texture and momentum with his patented moans, trills and growls. It's easy to picture his massive stature, one that rendered any guitar in his grip child-sized, as it is plainly audible in his domination of these tracks.

Without even mentioning the legendary "Spoonful" or "Backdoor Man", Howlin' Wolf is full to the seams with highlights: the driving bass and raucous climax of "You'll be Mine", the call/response groove between the harmonica and guitar/harp on "Who's Been Talkin'", the relentless swagger in the meter of "Little Baby", the rustic atmosphere of "Little Red Rooster" (the biggest throwback to the delta sound here), and the inversely proportional silliness of the name "Wang Dang Doodle" to the irresistable cool of the song itself. "Goin' Down Slow" features a boastful spoken narrative by Dixon that is all but eclipsed in the shadow of Wolf's voice.

While there is no doubt that Howlin' Wolf and his collleagues transformed blues into something with unprecedented appeal and instantly exportable to an international stage, there is no point in remonstrating against the multitude of inferior artists that subsequently lifted or ripped off his work (and guess what, when it comes to plagiarism and blues, it's turtles all the way down). Simply put this is arguably the best collection of tracks from an imposing and memorable figure from music history, a true piece of time and still some of the coolest, most finger snapping music out there.

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user ratings (101)

Comments:Add a Comment 
August 7th 2023


great review! Howlin' Wolf rules

Contributing Reviewer
August 7th 2023


goodily reviewdily

Staff Reviewer
August 7th 2023


Album Rating: 4.0

Did this not have a write up? Whyyyyy

Good job

Contributing Reviewer
August 7th 2023


Album Rating: 4.0

Nice review, cracking record

August 7th 2023


dont like this at all but nice

Staff Reviewer
August 7th 2023


Oh nice, was jamming Hound Dog Taylor last night and thinking this site could use more blues reviews

August 8th 2023


Album Rating: 5.0

thank you for the posts

review is whatever, ive got nothing insightful to say and have been editing it in circles for months but i felt duty bound to make a thread since i think its a 5

hound dog taylor rules, more of you'll cowards should listen to blues agreed

August 10th 2023


only the best

Staff Reviewer
August 10th 2023


Wang Dang Doodle rules so hard

August 10th 2023


Album Rating: 4.0

Red Rooster best song

August 10th 2023


Album Rating: 3.0

Blues cruise 🚢

Contributing Reviewer
August 10th 2023


looks sweet, nice read, will czech

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