Thursday, May 20, 2010

HOWLIN WOLF - HOWLIN WOLF or the The Rockin' Chair Album (1962)

ALBUM`````HOWLIN' WOLF (also known as The Rockin' Chair Album)

How the hell didn't I hear this guy's records before is beyond me. He is a formidable cult figure in blues history and one of it's most original and powerful singers. When I heard just a first few screams from his huge mouth I immediately though - shit: Tom Waits had lots of fun listening to this... I am really not blues-oriented or informed so this is quit a find for me especially because I was into Tom Waits for 10 long years (!?). I heard a few Howlin' Wolf later hit songs but I never listened to a full album. It took me just a few clicks to find out that Tom Waits was directly influenced by this passionate loud-mouth killer.
This record was released 10 years before
1973 Tom Waits debut light-hearted but beautiful album "Closing Time" and 20 years before his revolutionary Swordfishtrombones (1983) where he fully released his gravelly voice. Wolf has been singing since the 1930's and played on one of the first electric guitars anyone had ever seen (that's how old his music is). Even the themes and some phrases are identical. The thing that struck me the most was that while listening Wolf's mostly 2,50 mins long songs I constantly had a feeling of purity, power and strength that Waits lost over time in his often over-done cabaret aesthetic. If you listen to the sharp guitar stabs and vocal beat of Spoonful, or the backing instrumentation and the shuffled beat of Who's Been Talkin'? you will simply hear Tom Waits cooking the same soup all over again.
I found a comment here that even as a dedicated Waits listener I have to agree with:

J. P. Spencer
I happen to love Tom Waits' music, "The Black Rider" in particular, but I have one big beef about him. Why is he always suing people for sounding like him when he himself sounds like Howlin' Wolf? I think it's safe to say that Waits has made more money suing people for musical plagiarism than he has from his truly impressive catalog of songs. You would think that The Continuum of Universal Fairness would dictate that this should be the other way around.

One of my favorite tracks from this album is
The Red Rooster - a moronically simple song about a measly farm problem with a missing lazy rooster. This brilliant line - If you see my little red rooster, please drag him home (like he's a wasted drunkard) is something we could easily hear in Tom's live or recorded ramblings. People can easily get lost in the huge universe of Tom Waits discography (I did) and never look beyond it (or before it). This reminds me of a documentary on rock music of 1970's (can't remember the name) where Keith Richards said that pretty much every cult rock song or guitar solo was either a direct remake or was heavily based on a 50 year old blues song hahaha.

Anyways, this album is really a must-listen. Repost the damn thing.

In the history of the blues, there has never been anyone quite like the Howlin' Wolf. Six foot three and close to 300 pounds in his salad days, the Wolf was the primal force of the music spun out to its ultimate conclusion. A Robert Johnson may have possessed more lyrical insight, a Muddy Waters more dignity, and a B.B. King certainly more technical expertise, but no one could match him for the singular ability to rock the house down to the foundation while simultaneously scaring its patrons out of its wits.

Howlin' Wolf:
Howlin' Wolf (album)



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peskypesky said...

thank you. love me some Howlin' Wolf. my favorite blues artist of all time. well, one of them. :)

what a voice!

Anonymous said...

great one.. super blog you have here.. really entertaining!!!

zappahead said...

Love this stuff....and your blog to......havent heard this album in ages....some classic stuff on here....thanks for the share.....much appreciated...cheers.

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