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Plain and Fancy

Music gives soul to universe, wings to mind, flight to imagination, charm to sadness, and life to everything.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Howlin' Wolf - The Real Folk Blues / More Real Folk Blues (1966-67 us, blues master, 2002 release)

The Real Folk Blues, originally released by Chess in 1966 to capitalize on the then-current folk music boom. The music, however -- a collection of Howlin' Wolf (born Chester Arthur Burnett), singles from 1956 to 1966 -- is full-blown electric, featuring a nice sampling of Wolf originals with a smattering of Willie Dixon tunes.

Some of the man's best middle period work is aboard here; "Killing Floor," "Louise," the hair-raisingly somber "Natchez Burning," and Wolf's version of the old standard "Sitting on Top of the World," which would become his set closer in later years.

The Mobile Fidelity version sounds as sonically sharp as anything you've ever heard by this artist and its heftier price tag is somewhat justified by the inclusion of two bonus cuts. But those on a budget who just want the music minus the high-minded audiophile concerns will be happy to note that this is also available as a Chess budget reissue.

More Real Folk Blues,  was issued in 1967 (after the Wolf  had appeared on network television with the Rolling Stones, alluded to in the original liner notes) and couldn't be more dissimilar in content to the first one if you had planned it that way. Whereas the previous volume highlighted middle-period Wolf, this one goes all the way back to his earliest Chess sessions, many of which sound like leftover Memphis sides. The chaotic opener, "Just My Kind," sets a familiar Wolf theme to a "Rollin' & Tumblin'" format played at breakneck speed, and what the track lacks in fidelity is more than made up in sheer energy. 

For a classic example of Wolf's ensemble Chicago sound, it's pretty tough to beat "I Have a Little Girl," where the various members of his band seem to be all soloing simultaneously -- not unlike a Dixieland band -- right through Wolf's vocals. For downright scary, the demonic-sounding "I'll Be Around" is an absolute must-hear. Wolf's harp solo on this slow blues is one of his best and the vocal that frames it sounds like the microphone is going to explode at any second. As soul singer Christine Ohlman commented upon hearing this track for the first time, "Boy, I'd sure hate to be the woman he's singing that one to."
by Cub Koda

1. Killing Floor - 2:48
2. Louise - 2:41
3. Poor Boy - 2:32
4. Sitting on Top of the World - 2:30
5. Nature - 2:44
6. My Country Sugar Mama - 2:33
7. Tail Dragger (Willie Dixon) - 2:55
8. Three Hundred Pounds of Joy (Willie Dixon) - 3:02
9. Natchez Burning - 2:09
10.Built for Comfort (Willie Dixon) - 2:35
11.Ooh Baby (Hold Me) - 2:36
12.Tell Me What I've Done - 2:47
13.Just My Kind - 2:52
14.I've Got A Woman - 2:55
15.Work For Your Money - 2:12
16.I'll Be Around - 3:14
17.You Can't Be Beat - 3:10
18.No Place To Go (You Gonna Wreck My Life) - 2:56
19.I Love My Baby - 2:57
20.Neighbors - 2:45
21.I'm The Wolf - 2:52
22.Rockin' Daddy - 3:03
23.Who Will Be Next - 2:34
24.I Have A Little Girl - 2:34
All songs by Chester Burnett except where indicated
Songs recorded between 1953-65

*Howlin' Wolf - Vocals, Guitars, Harmonica
*Andrew McMahon - Bass
*Arnold Rogers - Tenor Sax
*Donald Hankins - Baritone Sax
*Johnny Jones - Piano
*Hubert Sumlin - Guitar
*Andrew Palmer - Electric Bass
*Willie Dixon - Bass
*Alfred Elkins - Bass
*Sammy Lay - Drums
*Earl Phillips - Drums
*Hosea Lee Kennard - Piano
*Otis Spann - Piano
*Jody Williams - Guitar
*Willie Johnson - Guitar
*Junior Blackman - Drums
*J.T.Brown - Tenor Sax
*Lafayette Leake - Piano
*Buddy Guy - Guitar
*Otis "Smokey" Smothers - Guitar
*Fred Below - Drums
*Lee Cooper - Guitar