Blues Review Vinyl

Howlin’ Wolf: Sam Philips’ greatest discovery?

Title: Moanin’ In The Moonlight

Label: Vinyl Lovers

He was a big man, in terms of sheer bulk (there was 300 pounds of the Wolf) and in height (all six for three inches of him) but also in his performance (he was a force of nature at the height of his powers). There have been other greats: Robert Johnson was the pioneer and possessed a true grasp of the laws of the blues; B.B. King was a technician and could spin a blues song around his little finger and Muddy Waters was almost a royal figure in the genre, such was the measure of respect he demanded and the almost noble way that he took the blues to the audience. Wolf, though? He threatened to lift any venue he performed within, out of its foundations. To be carefully placed around, what, 3000 miles away? Such was the power he possessed.

A3NFX5 HOWLIN WOLF - US Blues singer on Ready, Steady, Go in December 1964

On Ready, Steady, Go in December 1964

He was a primeval force. Hurricanes, tidal waves, volcanos…wouldn’t have dared to come anywhere near Howlin’ Wolf (or Chester Athur, as he was born but that name doesn’t really fit, somehow, does it?).

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The son of a farmer, Wolf’s life changed when he met Charlie Patton. From Patton, Wolf learned all about presentation. About entertainment. About delivery. It was from Sonny Boy Williamson, though, that he learned how to tackle the harmonica. Patton and Williamson delivered, like God to Moses, the essence of the blues and the power to move the blues into your soul, directly into the veins.

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This LP was Howlin’ Wolf’s second collection of songs for the Chess label and almost reaches the heights of his self-titled debut. His excellent guitar and harp talent is on full view here along with top notch performances and songs but it’s the man’s sheer forceful magnetism that really gets you on this LP.

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The mastering is rather compressed in its presentation, although that suits the blues idiom to an extent. I also suspect that we are slaves to the original recordings on this one. As it is, the LP is clean and clear which gives the music as much chance as possible to present as much detail as possible.

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Highlights include How Many More Years, Smokestack Lightnin’ and I Asked For Water (She Gave Me Gasoline).

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2 Comments

  • Reply
    Barolojoe
    16th December 2018 at 9:35 am

    Hello from Heidelberg,

    this was not “his second song collection for the Chess Label’, as written in the article above. It was in fact his first longplayer; released in 1959. His self-titled LP with the rocking chair at the front cover (also a collection of previous released tracks on singles & shellacs) was available a little later, 1961 or ’62.
    Real Blues aficionados & collectors prefer those tracks in general as first editions on ’78 shellac, released during the fifties on the Chess label.
    Those old ’78s have a rawer and more powerful sound than later transfers to 33 U/min Vinyl.

    By the way: The mentioned Charlie Patton is by some long-time Blues collectors higher regarded than Robert Johnson. Ask a John Tefteller of Joe Bussard for example, and most likely they will tell you that Robert Johnson was not exactly a true pioneer of the genre and is somewhat overrated & overhyped. The were other influential & respected Blues musicians before RJ, already in the late 1920s and early/mid ’30s, who saw the seeds for Robert Johnson & Co.

    Apart from Charlie Patton, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Son House, Skip James & Lonnie Johnson deserves more honors, too…

    Greetings from Germany

  • Reply
    Paul Rigby
    16th December 2018 at 10:53 am

    Quite true, Barolojoe – not even sure why I said that, I seem to have swapped the two around for some odd reason. Thanks for the correction.

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