Friday Full-Length: Howlin’ Wolf, The Howlin’ Wolf Album

Howlin’ Wolf, The Howlin’ Wolf Album (1969)

After closing out last week with Muddy Waters‘ 1968 psych-blues outing, Electric Mud, it seemed only fair to cap this week with Howlin’ Wolf‘s companion piece, The Howlin’ Wolf Album, which arrived a year later also on Chess Records and also with psychedelic rockers Rotary Connection serving as the backing band. Actually, the full title, at least according to the cover, This is Howlin’ Wolf’s New Album. He Doesn’t Like It. He Didn’t Like His Electric Guitar at First Either., which, let’s face it, is a little long. And as with Electric Mud, which was reputed to be hated by the famous bluesman who made it, it may or may not be accurate. Whether or not Howlin’ Wolf thought much of Rotary Connection‘s penchant for flutes, fuzz, wah pedals and heavy bass, it’s probably not the best marketing decision in the world to put on the front cover that the artist involved doesn’t actually stand behind the material on the record. I guess there’s a reason only two of these kinds of albums were made by Cadet Concept/Chess Records. Hard to imagine producer Marshall Chess wouldn’t have gone after John Lee Hooker sooner or later if The Howlin’ Wolf Album and Electric Mud had been commercial or critical successes.

Still, the pair’s longevity and influence on heavy rock and roll is palpable. You can hear it in the jam of “Smokestack Lighting” and the bragging “Tail Dragger,” in the slushed up takes on standards like “Evil” and “Back Door Man,” the latter of which closes the album introduced by Howlin’ Wolf who tells us to sit there and watch him play some real blues. Fair enough, sir. The Howlin’ Wolf Album doesn’t push as far into psychedelic jamming as Electric Mud, but it has plenty of spacious moments anyway in a broader cut like “Built for Comfort” or “Moanin’ at Midnight,” which lives up to its title with sparse backing guitar behind blues harp and Wolf‘s characteristic, name-earning vocals. As an experiment, it’s way easier to call it a success in hindsight than it would’ve been at the time, but its reach proves to be on the right side of history, and whether or not Howlin’ Wolf was actually into it at the time or afterwards, it’s a record that’s had a considerable impact across the lines of genre, and it was a special moment for blues and rock that wouldn’t come again.

Hope you enjoy.

Wow. What a week. I split out shortly to go see Electric Wizard in Boston. It’ll be Tuesday before I review that, however, because last night I also saw Birch Hill DamWasted TheoryLord Fowl and Second Grace in Worcester, and that will have to be Monday. Kind of funny to have written 50 reviews — quite literally, 50 reviews — in the span of the last five days and still feel like I’m so far behind, but there you go. File it under “go figure.”

So that’s Monday and Tuesday, right there, and then Tuesday night, I fly out to go to Roadburn and there’s the rest of your week. I’ll have a Mirror Queen track premiere in there somewhere, but basically next week is all about Roadburn coverage and, as ever, that should prove to be plenty. I have some writing to do this weekend both for that and for the Maryland Deathfest program guide (thanks to Kim Kelly for having me involved in that), and I’ll be posting regular updates along the way. You know how it goes. I don’t sleep until the flight home, but it’s always worth it.

I feel like an asshole leaving the dog alone the second night in a row, but she’s got food and water, I’ve “accidentally” left the door to the guest bedroom open so she can go jump on the bed if she wants and I don’t expect it’ll be a late night. The Patient Mrs. has been away at a conference since Wednesday, and as I’ve done nothing since I dropped her off at the airport except review records, feel overwhelmed, eat the same rice and beans leftovers and go to that show in Worcester, it’s probably for the best. If I can, I’m going to try very, very hard to really veg out sometime over the course of Saturday and Sunday, at least for a few hours, in hopes of building up some reserve of energy beyond what caffeine can muster.

Bring ibuprofen. Bring gum. Drink water. Gotta stay hydrated. All these things running through my head already as I start to mentally prepare. Eat salad.

Have a great and safe weekend, and please check out the forum and radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

Tags: , , , ,

One Response to “Friday Full-Length: Howlin’ Wolf, The Howlin’ Wolf Album

  1. goAt says:

    Lookin’ forward to that Wizard review! FUNERALOPOLIS. More often than not, I really dig your Friday Full-Length picks as well, man! Latah!

Leave a Reply