Customer Reviews

15
4.5 out of 5 stars
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item


There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

78 of 81 people found the following review helpful
on October 27, 2011
Format: Audio CDVerified Purchase
I would doubt anyone reading this would need an introduction to Wolf and his life. Since that info is available in many places, I will skip to the review of this package.

If you want everything, you will need both Bear Family sets and the one on Ace. I am certain someone will give this one star for that, but that is not the claim here at all; it is "Chess Masters".

Sound quality is great. However, the Japanese reissues are the very best. We're splitting hairs here, and the Japanese ones are very expensive, so I heartily recommend this one. You are not really losing anything . . .

There are alternate takes and studio chatter here, including: "Hubert, turn your amp down!". The alternate takes are great and a real treat - I only wish there were more.

These are the really raw Wolf sides: beginning with the Memphis recordings; hitting the early, rawest Chicago recordings; and ending with, as the compiler states: "Hubert Sumlin coming into his own." On the bulk of these sides, you get wildly distorted guitar, intense harmonica, crazy piano and crazy drums. I recall Greil Marcus writing something like: "Wolf's best records come on like a three minute race-riot" and these sides bear that out. I believe Robert Palmer wrote that "Wolf's band always sounds like it is about to rupture" - again, an accurate description. It is that very tension that makes these sides so compelling.

Have you noticed that when you hear a cover of Wang Dang Doodle, the band always does the Koko Taylor version? Know why? Wolf's can't be played by earthlings! Most Wolf songs defy "copy-catting".

It's not just his voice, which is inimitable (but that does not stop folks from trying). Try "I'll be Around" and see if you can find someone to do THAT. Wolf's voice defies superlatives - that "growl" can put across any emotion.

It is also the bands. When you hear a Wolf cover, the bands can almost never get the same feel as the original - even on what seems like a basic shuffle or slow blues. I understand the argument that Wolf could make any backing band sound good (his voice and harp are THAT good) but the bands he used in his prime were all inventive and quite unique. The result is exquisite.

Honest appraisal: if you are new to the Wolf, buy a cheaper collection first. I am certain you'll want more. Heck, the folks that put this out should give away a five song sampler to get listeners hooked (you know - the first one's free and then we got you!)

The packaging is much better than the Little Walter, Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry releases; I know that has been an issue. This one should hold up for the duration.

I could live happily with this as the only cd in my collection. I go through times where I only want to hear Wolf, and this set has set another "Wolf-constantly" period into motion. There is not a weak track here and I am signing off to go listen in the car.

When can we get the 60's era box?
77 commentsWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
Format: Audio CD
This rather lovely 'book-shaped' set is the first in a series of CD retrospectives documenting Chester Arthur Burnette (his real name) and his stay at the legendary Blues label 'Chess'. There's an awful lot of Howlin' Wolf to document here, so let's get to the details...

Released Monday 21 November 2011 in the UK (September 2011 in the USA) on Hip-O Select/Geffen/Universal B0015309-2 - "Smokestack Lightning - The Complete Chess Masters 1951-1960" is a 97-Track 4CD Book Set and breaks down as follows:

Disc 1, 26 Tracks, 1951 to 1953 (73:08 minutes):
Tracks 2, 5, 6, 17, Previously Unreleased In The USA
Tracks 8, 9, 13, 14, 18 and 21 first released on the 1994 US 2CD compilation "Ain't Gonna Be Your Dog" on Chess CD2-9349
Tracks 15 and 20 first released on the 1991 US 3CD Box Set "Howlin' Wolf - The Chess Box" on Chess CD3-9332
Tracks 24 to 26 are 1953 Mono recordings 1st released on the 1966 USA LP "More Real Folk Blues" on Chess LP 1512
I've provided all other track info in the 'comment' section attached to this review as well as a 78". 7" and LP Discography

Disc 2, 27 Tracks, 1953 to 1956 (73:42 minutes):
Tracks 1, 5, 6, 8, 9, and first released on the 1994 US 2CD compilation "Ain't Gonna Be Your Dog" on Chess CD2-9349
Tracks 2, 7, 10, and first released on the 1991 US 3CD Box Set "Howlin' Wolf - The Chess Box" on Chess CD3-9332
Tracks 13, 14 and are 1954 Mono recordings 1st released on the 1966 USA LP "More Real Folk Blues" on Chess LP 1512
Other track info - see 'comment' section attached to this review

Disc 3, 25 Tracks, 1956 to 1958 (76:41 minutes):
Tracks 1 first released on the 1993 US 4CD Box Set by Various Artists called "Chess Blues" on Chess CHD4-9340
Tracks 4, 6, 12, 14, 15, 17 and 25 first released on the 1994 US 2CD compilation "Ain't Gonna Be Your Dog" on Chess CD2-9349
Tracks 9, 11, 19, 20, 22* and 25* Previously Unreleased In The USA
[Track 22 includes Chess single 1726; Track 25 includes Alternate Take on "Ain't Gonna Be Your Dog" 2CD set on Chess CHD2-9349]
Other track info - see 'comment' section attached to this review

Disc 4, 19 Tracks, 1958 to 1960 (68:50 minutes):
Tracks 1, 2, 5, 9 and 11 Previously Unreleased In The USA
Track 4 first released on the 1982 US 2LP set "Chess Blues Rarities" on Chess CH2-9230
Track 15 first released on the 1991 US 3CD Box Set "Howlin' Wolf - The Chess Box" on Chess CD3-9332
Tracks 6, 8, 13 (with Outtakes Dialogue) and 14 first released on the 1994 US 2CD compilation "Ain't Gonna Be Your Dog" on Chess CD2-9349
Other track info - see 'comment' section attached to this review

The hardback book packaging matches the look and feel of the MUDDY WATERS "Hoochie Coochie Man..." Hip-O Select 2CD set of 2004 (not as wide, but it's taller). "Smokestack Lightning..." has an embossed matt cardboard effect on the front cover with similarly textured pages within and is a non-numbered worldwide Limited Edition of 5000 copies. The 42-page booklet inside has an essay on Wolf (Pages 3 to 9) by PETER GURALNICK who is the award-winning Author of 2 books on Sam Cooke and Elvis Presley - with a forthcoming Biography on Sam Phillips. In fact Guralnick's entry here is a highly personal interview with SAM PHILLIPS on how the legendary and visionary Producer of Sun Records first tried to record the great bluesman and his band in 1951. Phillips warmly remembers the sheer impact of Wolf's powerhouse of a voice and physical presence (6' 3", 275 Pounds). Sam is full of passion and awe for the man who sang "...with his damn soul..." - bowled over even now - some 60 years after the event.

Not to be outdone, the liner notes on the project itself by DICK SHUMAN on Pages 11 to 19 are equally entertaining as they concentrate on the key musicians and recording dates. I particularly love the page that pictures "The New 708 Club" card invite for the Chicago Blues Club that tells you - you can see Muddy Waters on Mon, Wed and Thurs with Otis Rush on Fri, Sat and Sun but Howlin' Wolf is only available on Tues! Now there's a week of Blues gigs I want to attend! Pages 20 to 42 picture Trade Adverts, Black & White photos of his group, photos of his rare "Moanin' In The Moonlight" album from 1958 (front and rear) and end on a full track-by-track Discography. The 4CDs are held in individual leaves at the back - each disc colour scheme reflecting the original shellac and vinyl labels (Blue and White for the 78's - Blue and Silver for the famous Chess 45's).

As with so much of the enormous Chess catalogue - the remastering has been carried out by one of Universal's top engineers ERICK LABSON - a man with over 900 mastering and audio restoration credits to his name. This stuff is ROUGH - brutal even in places - and the remaster brings out that raw power. Some of the alternate takes are very crackly - but he has allowed them to breath and there's huge presence in every track. Most of the songs on Disc 1 to 3 are self-penned like the staggering "Smoke Stack Lightning" (lyrics above), but by the time we get to the tail end of Disc 4 the catalyst of WILLIE DIXON arrives - sending everything into the stratosphere ("Spoonful" and "Wang Dang Doodle"). The combo of Wolf's voice and Dixon's witty tunes will undoubtedly dominate Volume 2.

Niggles - the packaging is lovely, but it's over too soon. Very few 78's or 45's are pictured and you can't help thinking that if Bear Family or Ace had handled this - it would be twice the size and truly beautiful in every way. And musically - the repetition of tracks and takes is hard to take - so a "Best Of" would suffice for the merely curious (or even a Willie Dixon set with HW tracks on it). Die-hard fans, however, of Howlin' Wolf, Chess Records and the Blues in general will have to own this.

To sum up - despite the 'slightly' disappointing packaging - this is a classy reminder of a genuine force of nature - a singer who shaped so much of what we still listen to - and whose influence can still be felt to this day. And if you want to know why so many white rock guys worshipped at his feet and regularly tried to kiss the hem of his garment - here is the place to start...

Like Otis Redding, Sam Cooke and Muddy Waters - how I wished I'd seen this giant live...
55 commentsWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on March 18, 2012
Format: Audio CD
While this is an esssential set of Wolf's early recordings,The Bihari Brothers based in Los Angeles,had their Modern-RPM labels and also got songs from Sam Phillips just as the Chess Brothers did in Chicago and they were both very interested in Howlin Wolf.Of course Chess did sign him and and had so many classic songs recorded in Chicago,if Wolf had gone with Modern..music history might be very different.
Yes these are complete for the Chess label,but Wolf's recordings sold to Modern-RPM aren't on this release.Sam Phillips sold songs to both Chess and Modern-RPM in the early 50's before Wolf was signed to Chess and left Memphis for Chicago.
"Howling Wolf Sings The Blues" on the Ace label is just as essential,raw and rockin stuff from 1951-1952,it was released in 2004 and great sound."House Rockin Boogie" and "Keep What You Got" alone are worth the price of the CD..a perfect companion to this set..check it out!
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on December 12, 2011
Format: Audio CDVerified Purchase
About time a definitive box set of Howlin's work has come out. Hope we don't have to wait too long for the next set since this covers only the years from 1951 to 1960. If you are a blues lover and dig the the Wolf, this a must for anyone's collection. The hits and some not so big hits are all here. Not going to go into all the songs collected here if you know Howlin's music you''ll know most of the songs in this box set, if not here is the excuse to go out and buy it, and start listening. Enjoy
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 5, 2012
Format: Audio CDVerified Purchase
We finally get a complete collection of the earlier Chess recordings of The Wolf. No need to go into the musical details, as previous reviews have done that. It is worth noting that the packaging is much better than the most recent Muddy Waters set from a year or two ago. Could the booklet be longer? Of course. But what is here is very cool. And the music sounds better than ever. The Chess Box might the better career overview, but this compilation is as good as it gets. Let's pray that the next volume (1960+) comes out sometime soon. Get it while you can!
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 16, 2014
Format: Audio CD
So you may be wondering what's the difference between this box set and "The Chess Box".....Here you go. Dups were removed.
The Chess Box:
Ain't Goin' Down That Dirt Road
Built For Comfort
Commit A Crime
Don't Laugh At Me
Down In The Bottom
Dust My Broom
Goin' Down Slow
Hard Luck
Hidden Charms
I Ain't Superstitious
I Walked From Dallas
I'm The Wolf (Acoustic)
Just Like I Treat You
Killing Floor
Louise
Love Me Darlin'
Mary Sue
Moanin' At Midnight
Moving
My Country Sugar Mama
My Mind Is Ramblin'
New Crawlin' King Snake
Ooh Baby (Hold Me)
Shake For Me
Stay Here Til My Baby Comes Back
Tail Dragger
Tell Me What I've Done
The Red Rooster (1961 Single Version)
The Red Rooster (False Start And Dialogue)
Three Hundred Pounds Of Joy
Who's Been Talking?
You'll Be Mine

Smokestack Lightning: Complete Chess Masters
(You) Can't Put Me Out
Can't Put Me Out (alternate)*
Bluebird
Break Of Day
California Blues #1
California Blues #2
California Boogie*
Color And Kind
Come To Me Baby
Decoration Day (Blues)
Dorothy Mae
Dorothy Mae (alternate take)*
Everybody's In The Mood
Gettin' Old And Grey
Getting Late
Going Back Home*
Highway My Friend
Hold Your Money
Howlin' Blues (I'm Going Away)
Howlin' For My Baby (takes 1-7)*
I Better Go Now (Howlin' Blues) (alternate)*
I Didn't Know*
I Have A Little Girl
I Love My Baby
I'm Leaving You
I'm Leaving You (alternate take)*
I'm Leaving You (takes 7-10)*
I'm Not Joking
I've Been Abused (takes 4-12)*
I've Got A Woman
Look-A-Here
Moaning For My Baby (Midnight Blues) (takes 3 & 4)*
Mr. Airplane Man (takes 1-2)
My Baby Told Me
My Life
My People's Gone
Nature
Nature (alternate take)
Nature (takes 1/4/6)*
No Place To Go (You Gonna Wreck My Life)
Oh Red
Poor
Poor Boy (alternate take)
Smile At Me*
So Glad
Somebody In My Home
Somebody In My Home (alternate take)*
Sweet Woman (a/k/a I Got A Woman)
Walk To Camp Hall
Wolf In The Mood (instrumental)
Worried All The Time
You Gonna Wreck My Life (No Place To Go) (alternate take)
You Ought To Know
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 31, 2014
Format: MP3 MusicVerified Purchase
Howling Wolf is one of the, if not THE greatest blues singers of all time. This material is brilliant, essential yada yada. But seriously how can Hip-O Select charge a super-premium price(and now it's going for upwards of 2-3X its original price as an out-of-print collectable)for something with this little accompanying quality booklet? People would riot if Rhino or Bear Family put out something this slapdash. The cheapest of raw cardboard covers guaranteed to deteriorate with the slightest handling. About as much text as would fit on two typewritten pages, a couple of newspaper ads/clips, oversize song title pages. That's it?! Compare it to anything like the Otis Redding or Aretha Rhino boxes, to say nothing of any Bear Family boxes and this smells of the fast buck.
You can collect the vast majority of these tracks on other collections for a fraction of the coin.I shelled out for it, but needless to say I feel slightly taken. Music 5*s of course. Package? More like 2 1/2 *s. I'll try to update this with a close comparison of the relative sonic quality of other collections of this material. SL/TCCM sounds fine so that might trump other collections but will report back. Update: I am not technically sophisticated to say this is the definitive way to evaluate the care that went into the remastering but here's one way- when you import CDs into your iTunes folder as a "lossless" file it shows the variable bitrate that iTunes encoded it to, which is a reflection of how many bits the CD version originally had. I've seen CDs come in as low as 400 kbps and as high as over 1000. This HW set seems to consistently clock in around 5-600 kbps which is really on the low side. I'm not saying I could positively distinguish between something mastered with a higher vs. lower bitrate but it's one indication of the sound quality you're getting. For the most part I find the sound on this very natural and punchy i.e. good dynamic range. Anyone else(any audio engineers out there?) care to expound on this way of evaluating sound quality/detail?
22 commentsWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format: MP3 Music
This little box contains every song the TRULY GREAT Howlin' Wolf cut for Chess records from his beginning with the label to 1960. He still cut a ton of great stuff after this period, but this phase is where his legend was made...and what a legend it is....for those who haven't lived with this stuff...you can make a really good argument that these four discs contain the greatest blues music every recorded...this isn't just good, this isn't just great...THIS IS LEGENDARY..think Hank Williams, think Frank Sinatra, think the Beatles/Stones/Zep...that's what we have here...this is the rawest, hardest, most low down blues ever recorded...BAR NONE...and very few blues fans will deny that...So it you are thinking about getting into the blues, Howlin' Wolf should be one of your very first stops. That being said, you can currently get into his music in any number of ways that can be had for a lot less coin than this one. What makes this release special, is that it contains EVERYTHING. It isn't cheap, and the packing isn't as nice as it should be for the price, but it does contain EVERYTHING, and it's been expertly remastered....so while this might not be the most logical first Wolf purchase, I wouldn't hesitate stepping up to this set sooner rather than later for one simple reason...the Wolf's music is HIGHLY ADDICTIVE......as a result, most who get into the Wolf eventually want EVERYTHING...and right now this is the only way you can get it. Splurge and enjoy....
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 22, 2012
Format: Audio CDVerified Purchase
Great box set and great price on it. Only song missing i would have loved to have had was "Going Down Slow" but I believe he recorded that later, on a different label. Really great stuff! Great alternate takes I have never heard. great value too.

Of all the blues guys, both Howlin' Wolf and John Lee Hooker were probably the scariest and most intense, and less slick.. even after decades of performances under their belts. Buy this box set!
11 commentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on July 2, 2014
Format: Audio CDVerified Purchase
I bought this when it came out, and it was overpriced then, but I really wanted to have ALL of Wolf's Chess recordings, so I shelled out. Now, of course, it's out of print and REALLY pricey. Yet one can still buy the original box set that was issued in 1991 used, in very good condition, for well under thirty dollars (as of this writing). a VG copy of this will set you back an additional one hundred dollars. That's a shame, because why limit the people that can own this wonderful music? Greed? Wouldn't they make as much or more if they could/would sell 3 times as many copies? I'm curious just how badly the original box has outsold this box; probably many more times than 3 to 1, and that box was lovingly produced with a generous book. I can't compare the two as the Chess Box covered his whole career, while this is the complete 1951 to 1960 recordings. I think at least a 2nd volume was supposed to follow but never has. They should have made this a 6 disc set and went another 4 years, and they would have had most of the essential music he made. After 1965, it was pretty spotty, but he still made some good music right up until the end (Chess released his last LP in 1973). His complete recordings From 1966-1973 would be a labor to sit through, mostly because Chess forced him to record some stuff he had no business recording. Also, his London Sessions and Back Door Man are available in good sound, and they are, IMO, his best late LPs.

Smokestack Lightning was a record company ploy to put the least into a product, make it a limited edition, and get the most out of it, in terms of profitability. They have done the same with the box sets of Chuck Berry, Little Walter and Muddy Waters. Shame on them. All they have done is rob many people of the joy of listening to this music, and ripped off those who will pay the price to have it. Again, shame on them.
11 commentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
     
 
Customers who viewed this also viewed


Definitive Collection
Definitive Collection by Howlin' Wolf (Audio CD - 2007)
 
     

Send us feedback

How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you?
Let us know here.

Your Recently Viewed Items and Featured Recommendations 
 

After viewing product detail pages, look here to find an easy way to navigate back to pages you are interested in.