Album Review: Howlin' Wolf, The Howlin' Wolf

By Graham Reid

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Album cover for The Howlin' Wolf Album. Photo / Supplied
Album cover for The Howlin' Wolf Album. Photo / Supplied

One of the assertions on the cover of this album - released in 1969, reissued after a long absence - isn't true. Bluesman Howlin' Wolf had been an "early adopter" of electric guitar.

What is true is he didn't care for this album ("dog shit" was his considered judgement) which had him being made over in line with the post-Hendrix psychedelic music of the time with wah-wah from guitarist Pete Cosey (soon to join Miles Davis' fusion outfit) splattered over his raw blues. And fluttery jazz-styled flute, of all things.

Chess Records had previously put Muddy Waters together with Cosey and others for the partially successful but mostly awful "psychedelic blues" album Electric Mud, but for Wolf - almost 60, grumpy and in a dry spell after a series of classic and influential singles at the start of the decade - this was an odd concept, especially when he was covering his important songs (the recent Spoonful, Back Door Man, Red Rooster and earlier Smokestack Lightning) in a way which detracted from their earthiness.

Wolf's sandpaper 'n' whisky vocals didn't sit with mind-expanding guitars, like taking moonshine to a love-in.

The moody and spare Evil and Moanin' at Midnight might be the best tracks, but that isn't saying much - and while we might wish this had improved with age, that isn't true either.

Stars: 2/5
Verdict: What the marketing department decides isn't always worthy
Buy The Howlin' Wolf

-TimeOut / elsewhere.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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