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The Definitive Collection

Howlin' Wolf

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Album Review

At six foot three and 270 pounds, Chester Burnett was a bear of a man, but his voice, rough and harsh as broken Delta glass, was what really gave him dimension. A powerful blues shouter out of the Charley Patton mold, Burnett (or Howlin' Wolf, as he came to be known) brought a feral fire to his vocals that made him sound like a gale force hurricane in front of the microphone. But he was far from a loose cannon. He had remarkable control over that voice, as the first track from this wonderful collection of his classic Chess sides makes clear. "Moanin' at Midnight," recorded in 1958 for Sam Phillips (Phillips promptly sold the master to Chicago's Chess Records), is nothing more than an amped-up and electrified field holler, but Wolf's subtle, wordless vocal phrasing makes it carry enough pain, suffering, pride, desperation, and resignation to fill the world to breaking, all in a single rocking performance that hits like a brick to the head. The Chess brothers recorded Wolf frequently in the next dozen or so years, wisely pairing him with guitarist Hubert Sumlin and bassist/songwriter Willie Dixon more often than not, and Wolf's output for the label between 1958 and 1964 forms the core of one of the greatest legacies in the history of the blues. All of his key Chess singles are here, including "Smokestack Lightning," his redefinitions of the Mississippi Sheiks' "Sittin' on Top of the World" and Skip James' "Hard Time Killin' Floor Blues" (reborn as "Killing Floor" in Wolf's hands), and his signature versions of Dixon's "Backdoor Man," "Spoonful," "The Red Rooster," and "I Ain't Superstitious," making this set a marvelous introduction to one of the most powerful voices in recorded history. What you need to hear is here. [The Definitive Collection contains the same tracks as the 1997 MCA release His Best].

Customer Reviews

Howlin' the blues

Being an avide blues fan in addition to seeking out new players carrying on the tradition of this sometimes forgotten art form, I am always collecting the classics the guys that started it all and Howlin' wolf is one of the originators of the Chicago blues along with Muddy, Little walter and many others. If you are a fan of newer blues artists like Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Joe Bonamassa and Back Door slam or you are a fan of some of the classic guitar Heroes like Clapton, SRV,Beck and Page I highly reccomend this album, and many other classic blues artists like Robert Johnson, B.B. King, Buddy Guy and many others this is were it started. This Is the Blues.

Howling for the wolf

I am an avid blues fan and I love this collection of Howling Wolf's for me greatest hits. His influence on musicians that followed him was profound--as was his talent.

Pretty cool

I haven't listened to much blues music myself, but this album sounded pretty good to me. I really like this guy's voice. :D

Biography

Born: June 10, 1910 in West Point, MS

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s

In the history of the blues, there has never been anyone quite like the Howlin' Wolf. Six foot three and close to 300 pounds in his salad days, the Wolf was the primal force of the music spun out to its ultimate conclusion. A Robert Johnson may have possessed more lyrical insight, a Muddy Waters more dignity, and a B.B. King certainly more technical expertise, but no one could match...
Full Bio

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