The Howlin' Wolf Album

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The Howlin' Wolf Album
Studio album by Howlin' Wolf
Released 1969
Recorded November 1968
Genre Blues, psychedelic
Length 40:59
Label Cadet Concept
Producer Marshall Chess, Charles Stepney, Gene Barge
Howlin' Wolf chronology
Howlin' Wolf
(1962)
The Howlin' Wolf Album
(1969)
Message to the Young
(1970)
Rotary Connection chronology
Electric Mud (with Muddy Waters)
(1968)
The Howlin' Wolf Album (with Howlin' Wolf)
(1969)
Aladdin
(1969)

The Howlin' Wolf Album is a 1969 album by Howlin' Wolf, with Rotary Connection as his backing band. It mixed blues with psychedelic rock arrangements on several of Howlin' Wolf's classic songs. Howlin' Wolf strongly disliked the album, and Chess Records referenced this fact on the album's cover. The album peaked at #69 on the Billboard Black Albums chart.

Production[edit]

In 1967, Marshall Chess formed Cadet Concept Records as a subsidiary of Chess Records. The label's first release was the self-titled debut album of the psychedelic band Rotary Connection, whose members Chess described as "the hottest, most avant garde rock guys in Chicago".[1] As a result of the album's success, Chess felt that he could revive the career of bluesmen Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf by recording two albums of experimental, psychedelic blues with members of Rotary Connection as the backing band for the singers, producing the albums Electric Mud and The Howlin' Wolf Album.[2] Chess hoped the new albums would sell well among fans of psychedelic rock bands influenced by Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf.[3]

In place of Howlin' Wolf's regular musicians were Gene Barge, Pete Cosey, Roland Faulkner, Morris Jennings, Louis Satterfield, Charles Stepney and Phil Upchurch.[4] Cosey, Upchurch and Jennings joked about calling the group "The Electric Niggers".[4] Marshall Chess liked the suggestion, but Leonard Chess refused to allow the name.[4]

The album incorporates use of wah-wah pedal and fuzzbox.[5] Marshall Chess augmented the rhythm of Howlin Wolf's live band with the use of electric organ and saxophone.[5] Blues purists criticized the album's psychedelic sound.[3] Howlin' Wolf disliked the sound, which he did not consider to be blues.[6] According to guitarist Pete Cosey, during the recording sessions, Howlin' Wolf "looked at me and he said 'Why don't you take them wah-wahs and all that other shit and go throw it off in the lake — on your way to the barber shop?'"[6]

The album has spoken commentary from Howlin' Wolf between some of the songs. The back cover of the album lists timings for each track. However, timings on the cover do not include the spoken commentary sections. This difference led to an error on the CD version (see below.)

Release and reception[edit]

Marshall Chess referred to Howlin' Wolf's dislike of the arrangements on the album's cover.[6][7] Howlin' Wolf took exception to the blurb, as he had enthusiastically adopted the use of electric guitar, and had led the first entirely electric blues combo in West Memphis in the early 1950s.[2] Howlin' Wolf stated that the album was "dog shit".[2][8] According to Chess, the album's cover hurt its sales. Chess states that "I used negativity in the title, and it was a big lesson: You can't say on the cover that the artist didn't like the album. It didn't really sell that well. But it was just an attempt. They were just experiments."[6]

The Howlin' Wolf Album did not sell as well as Electric Mud.[6] The Howlin' Wolf Album peaked at #69 on the Billboard Black Albums chart.[9] The album's single, "Evil", peaked at #43 on the R&B Singles chart.[9]

In 2007 a digitally remastered Compact Disc edition was released as a limited edition in Japan. Due to an error in remastering the CD version cuts 34 seconds from the last song "Back Door Man". Instead of a fade out the song ends abruptly at 6:31. On March 22, 2011 Get On Down Records reissued the CD in the US with the same mastering error. [10][11] The reason for the error is that the printed time for Back Door Man printed on the back cover is 6:17, however, this is for the music only. Correct timing for the full song with the spoken intro is 6:51. The album has never been released on CD in its complete form.

Track listing[edit]

Side A
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Spoonful"   Willie Dixon 3:52
2. "Tail Dragger"   Dixon 4:33
3. "Smokestack Lightning"   Howlin' Wolf 3:56
4. "Moanin' at Midnight"   Howlin' Wolf, Taub 3:15
5. "Built for Comfort"   Dixon 5:11
Total length:
20:49
Side B
No. Title Writer(s) Length
6. "The Red Rooster"   Dixon, Howlin' Wolf 3:50
7. "Evil"   Dixon, Howlin' Wolf 4:06
8. "Down in the Bottom"   Dixon 2:45
9. "Three Hundred Pounds of Joy"   Dixon 2:35
10. "Back Door Man"   Dixon 6:51
Total length:
20:09

Personnel[edit]

Chart positions[edit]

Chart (1969) Peak Position
Black Albums 49[9]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Shannon, Tim (December 2006). "Muddy Waters: His most hated, misunderstood album". Perfect Sound Forever. Retrieved 2009-03-18. 
  2. ^ a b c Murray, Charles Shaar (1991). "Blue are the Life-giving Waters". Crosstown traffic: Jimi Hendrix and the post-war rock'n'roll revolution. Macmillan. p. 134. ISBN 0-312-06324-5. 
  3. ^ a b Humphrey, Mark (1996). Electric Mud (liner notes). Chess/MCA. OCLC 779181053. UPC: 076732936429. 
  4. ^ a b c Cohodas, Nadine (2001). "Final Tracks". Spinning Blues Into Gold: The Chess Brothers and the Legendary Chess Records. p. 289. 
  5. ^ a b Moon, Tom (September 20, 2006). "A Blues Icon Who Rocks Unwillingly". NPR. Retrieved 2009-03-16. 
  6. ^ a b c d e Segrest, James; Hoffman, Mark (2005). "Change My Way". Moanin' at Midnight. Thunder's Mouth Press. p. 248. ISBN 1-56025-683-4. 
  7. ^ Gioia, Ted (2008). "Smokestack Lightnin'". Delta Blues: The Life and Times of the Mississippi Masters Who Revolutionized American Music. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 303. ISBN 0-393-06258-9. 
  8. ^ Strong, Martin Charles (2004). "Howlin' Wolf". The Great Rock Discography. Canongate. p. 711. ISBN 1-84195-615-5. 
  9. ^ a b c "Charts and awards for The Howlin' Wolf Album". Billboard. Retrieved 2009-03-16. 
  10. ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ATA1AKaUHpY
  11. ^ http://www.discogs.com/Howlin-Wolf-The-Howlin-Wolf-Album/release/2976238