Howlin’ Wolf Holwin’ Wolf/Moanin’ in the Moonlight

[MCA/Chess; 1986]

Styles: Chicago blues
Others: Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, Hubert Sumlin

You don't need to know a lot about Chicago blues to appreciate Howlin' Wolf's voice. As one of American music's archetypal wails, it's as instantly impressive as a gale force wind. Indeed, a single exposure should be enough to convince anyone that Howlin' Wolf belongs alongside the likes of Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, and Willie Nelson in the pantheon of virtuoso American singers. 

In the 1960s and '70s, many of the world's most famous rock stars openly venerated Howlin' Wolf and earnestly mined his work for inspiration. While he isn't as obviously present in the mainstream today, the distance pop has traveled from his aesthetic might actually help new listeners to appreciate his music on its own terms. The significance of seminal artists is often primarily, if not exclusively, expressed in terms of their influence on others. In some ways, this is unfortunate. After all, Howlin' Wolf's music is supremely satisfying in itself, regardless of the impact it had, say, on early Stones or Fresh Cream. For one thing, none of the Wolf's distinguished followers ever came close to matching his virile brand of vulnerability, and it would be a shame for that achievement to effectively fall behind a stack of Led Zeppelin records.

For many, Howlin' Wolf needs no introduction, and I won't further delay the discoveries of those who've never gotten to know him. Suffice it to say that his best stuff is absolutely essential. This particular release packages both of his 1962 Chess Records LPs for the price of one, and as such, it exists at the intersection of cultural literacy and consumer convenience. Enjoy.

1. Shake For Me
2. The Red Rooster
3. You'll Be Mine
4. Who's Been Talkin'
5.Wang Dang Doodle
6. Little Baby
7. Spoonful
8. Goin Down Slow
9. Down In The Bottom
10. Back Door Man
11. Howlin' For My Baby
12. Tell Me
13. Moanin' At Midnight
14. How Many More Years
15. Smokestack Lightnin'
16. Baby How Long
17. No Place To Go
18. All Night Boogie
19. Evil
20. I'm Leavin You

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