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Howlin' Wolf: His Best (Chess 50th Anniversary Collection) Import

4.9 out of 5 stars 94 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Part of the Chess 50th Anniversary Collection series, this digitally remastered set contains 20 of Howlin' Wolf's biggest and best Chess label recordings including "Spoonful," "The Red Rooster," "Killing Floor" and "Smokestack Lightning." Packaging features great new liner notes and graphics.

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Chester Burnett's ferocious growl was a staple of Chicago's electric-blues heyday. This 20-song compilation ranges from his 1951 debut "Moanin' at Midnight" with Willie Johnson on guitar to 1964's "Killing Floor" with Buddy Guy on guitar. His scratchy, sawed-off vocal approach and his energetic harmonica grace original classics such as "How Many More Years" and "Smokestack Lightnin'." By 1960, he became, along with Muddy Waters, the foremost interpreter of Willie Dixon's songs, lending his coarse voice to legendary Dixon cuts such as "Wang Dang Doodle," "Back Door Man," "Spoonful," "The Red Rooster," and "I Ain't Superstitious." Wolf's style was based on primal raw power, and he ranks among the genre's most distinctive performers. --Marc Greilsamer
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (April 8, 1997)
  • Chess 50th Anniversary Collect ed. edition
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Import
  • Label: Chess
  • ASIN: B000005KQM
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (94 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #68,795 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
The first thing you hear on this CD is Wolf's unearthly moaning/humming. It gradually increases in volume until it becomes huge, frightening, and distorted. The reason it's distorted is because his voice is overloading the mike. The sound you hear is the mike fixing to blow up. You're hearing the elements of the microphone being rattled by Wolf's gigantic voice. They didn't have equipment that could take the Wolf full-on. Similarly, no one CD is going to contain all of the Wolf; he was just too damn big. But this CD has all the stuff that sent people like Mike Bloomfield and Jimmy Page scuttling into their bedrooms to try and cop the licks. What they never could imitate was the raw pure attitude of the Wolf, a mighty, mighty man among men, "300 pounds of muscle and man" as he says on this very CD.
This CD has all the classic songs on it. If you know anything about blues you probably have this CD. If you're learning about the blues, GET THIS IMMEDIATELY. It makes nearly all modern "blues" artists sound completely pale and anemic. If you want a real laugh, drag out the Doors' first album and compare Jim Morrison's "Backdoor Man" with Howlin' Wolf's version on this CD. Then ask yourself who REALLY "ate more chicken than any man ever seen." I think the answer will be painfully obvious. This is everything the blues should be: raw, dangerous, edgy, filthy with distortion, snarling guitar from Hubert Sumlin and Pat Hare. Raw visceral blues that does not compromise and takes no prisoners. If blues was liquor, Howlin' Wolf would be straight whiskey. Buy this CD and get drunk.
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Format: Audio CD
...there just aren't that many available. When I first started listening to blues music - I had in my mind what a blues artist should sound like. I listened to Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Robert Johnson, Buddy Guy, Elmore James, and they all are great - don't get me wrong. But when I heard Howlin' Wolf start up on "I Ain't Superstitious," I knew that was it. Wolf has the best voice in blues, and this is the best collection I've come across of his music. You can make a case for a number of tunes that should be here, but the sound quality and overall impact of the selections just can't be beaten. If you are a blues novice, or just need to hear what the blues should sound like - get it.
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Format: Audio CD
For someone on a budget who is interested in the music of this legendary artist, look no further than this single disc album. The sound and track selection here are excellent. Anyone interested in the blues needs to have at lest one Howlin' Wolf album in their collection and you can't go wrong here. For those interested in further exploring the Wolf's music (or if you have a few extra bucks around), I suggest the Howlin' Wolf Chess Box which contains 3 discs worth of material, but for about 4 times the cost.
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Format: Audio CD
As great as they are, I feel like a lot of the bluesmen who went electric in the 40s and 50s -- even the great ones like Albert and B.B. King, Muddy Waters -- lost something in the switch. The soul of the old acoustic blues -- delta blues, country blues -- seemed to disappear, and be replaced with virtuosity and verbal wit. I could still enjoy the music, but it didn't stay with me the way Robert Johnson, Son House, and Skip James did; it felt more like pop music, less powerful, less true.

The only exception is Howlin' Wolf. This is the single electric disc that I feel has some of the old spirit, and it is telling that so many of the songs -- even though they are credited to Wolf -- have their roots in the old country blues. Smokestack Lightnin' and Sittin' On Top of the World are both Mississippi Sheiks tunes; I Asked For Water is a variation on an old Tommy Johnson song.

You can also see the best of both strands represented on the early Willie Dixon songs: Wang Dang Doodle, Back Door Man, and Spoonful. Then you can feel the quality start to slip, the Dixon songs becoming sillier and more commercial; the performances are still gripping, but there is something calculated and less authentic about "Three Hundred Pounds of Joy" and "Hidden Charms," as much energy as Wolf puts into them.

Finally, he realizes that he can do his own material better, and the disc ends with an incredible masterpiece - everything that is great about his music boiled down to the three minutes of Killing Floor: that huge voice, the slashing guitar, those fluid charging rhythms. It took him two days in the studio to get that one track right, but you will never hear anything that sounds more alive. Buy the CD. This is what music is for.
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A Kid's Review on December 20, 2005
Format: Audio CD
this album is, again, great. yes, it's me again. i'm the kid who reviewed the chess box yesterday. i'm here to review every howlin' wolf album. they all have 5 stars. anyway, my favorite song on this is 'moanin at midnight.' i think it's one of my favorite songs ever. it's also on the chess box, but i think this version is better. the other good song on this is 'killing floor.' how can you not want to dance after hearing that?! i could hear those 2 songs over and over and never get tired of them. when i was a little kid i used to play the 'moanin at midnight' single over and over on my record player. but now i have it on CD!
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