Tuesday, 22 November 2011

"Smokestack Lightning – The Complete Chess Masters 1951-9160" by HOWLIN' WOLF (2011 Hip-O Select 4CD Book Set - Erick Labson Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...


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"…Well Don't You Hear Me Cryin’…"

This rather lovely 'book-shaped' set is the first in a series of CD retrospectives documenting Chester Arthur Burnette (his real name) and his stay at the legendary Blues label 'Chess'. There's an awful lot of Howlin' Wolf to document here, so let's get to the details...

Released Monday 21 November 2011 in the UK (September 2011 in the USA) on Hip-O Select/Geffen/Universal B0015309-2 (Barcode 602527627342) - "Smokestack Lightning - The Complete Chess Masters 1951-1960" by HOWLIN’ WOLF is a 97-Track 4CD Book Set and breaks down as follows (Discography follows):

Disc 1, 26 Tracks, 1951 to 1953 (73:08 minutes):
1. Moanin' At Midnight (1951 78”, Chess 1479, A-side)
2. How Many More Years (Alternate)
3. How Many More Years (1951 78”, Chess 1479, B-side)
4. The Wolf's At Your Door (Howlin' For My Baby) (1952 78”, Chess 1497, B-side)
5. California Boogie
6. Smile At Me
7. Howlin’ Wolf Boogie (1952 78”, Chess 1497, A-side)
8. California Blues No. 1
9. Look-A-Here Baby
10. Worried All The Time (1952 78”, Chess 1515, B-side)
11. Getting’ Old And Grey (1952 78”, Chess 1510, B-side)
12. Mr. Highway Man (1952 78”, Chess 1510, A-side)
13. Everybody’s In The Mood
14. Color And Kind
15. Bluebird (Blues)
16. Saddle My Pony (1952 78”, Chess 1515, A-side)
17. Dorothy Mae (Alternate Take)
18. Dorothy Mae
19. Sweet Woman (a/k/a I Got A Woman)
20. Well That’s All Right
21. Decoration Day (Blues)
22. Oh Red (1952 78” and 7” [1st release on 45], Chess 1528, A-side)
23. My Last Affair (1952 78” and 7”, Chess 1528, B-side)
24. I’ve Got A Woman
25. Just My Kind
26. Work For Your Money
[Notes: Tracks 2, 5, 6, 17, Previously Unreleased In The USA
Tracks 8, 9, 13, 14, 18 and 21 first released on the 1994 US 2CD compilation “Ain’t Gonna Be Your Dog” on Chess CD2-9349
Tracks 15 and 20 first released on the 1991 US 3CD Box Set “Howlin’ Wolf – The Chess Box” on Chess CD3-9332
Tracks 24 to 26 are 1953 Mono recordings 1st released on the 1966 USA LP “More Real Folk Blues” on Chess LP 1512]

Disc 2, 25 Tracks, 1953 to 1956 (73:42 minutes):
1. I’m Not Joking
2. Mama Died And Left Me
3. All Night Boogie (All Night Long) (1953 78” and 7”, Chess 1557, A-side)
4. I Love My Baby (1953 78” and 7”, Chess 1557, B-side)
5. Highway My Friend
6. Hold Your Money
7. Streamline Woman
8. California Blues No. 2
9. Stay Here Til My Baby Comes Back
10. Crazy About You Baby
11. No Place To Go (You Gonna Wreck My Life) (1954 78” and 7”, Chess 1566, A-side)
12. You Gonna Wreck My Life (No Place To Go) (Alternate Take) (1959 7”, Chess 1744, B-side)
13. Neighbors
14. I’m The Wolf
15. Rockin’ Daddy (1954 78” and 7”, Chess 1566, B-side)
16. Baby How Long (1954 78” and 7”, Chess 1575, A-side)
17. Evil (Is Goin’ On) (1954 78” and 7”, Chess 1575, B-side)
18. I’ll Be Around (1955 78” and 7”, Chess 1584, A-side)
19. Forty Four (1955 78” and 7”, Chess 1584, B-side)
20. Who Will Be Next (1955 78” and 7”, Chess 1593, A-side)
21. I Have A Little Girl (1955 78” and 7”, Chess 1593, B-side)
22. Come To Me Baby (1955 78” and 7”, Chess 1607, A-side)
23. Don’t Mess With My Baby (1955 78” and 7”, Chess 1607, B-side)
24. Smokestack Lightning (1956 78” and 7”, Chess 1618, A-side)
25. You Can’t Be Beat (1956 78” and 7”, Chess 1618, B-side)
26. I Asked For Water (She Gave Me Gasoline) (1956 78" and 7", Chess 1632, A-side)
27. So Glad (1956 78" and 7", Chess 1632, B-side)
[Notes: Tracks 1, 5, 6, 8, 9, and first released on the 1994 US 2CD compilation “Ain’t Gonna Be Your Dog” on Chess CD2-9349
Tracks 2, 7, 10, and first released on the 1991 US 3CD Box Set “Howlin’ Wolf – The Chess Box” on Chess CD3-9332
Tracks 13, 14 and are 1954 Mono recordings 1st released on the 1966 USA LP “More Real Folk Blues” on Chess LP 1512]

Disc 3, 25 Tracks, 1956 to 1958 (76:41 minutes):
1. Break Of Day
2. The Natchez Burning (1959 7”, Chess 1744, A-side)
3. Going Back Home (1957 78” and 7”, Chess 1648, A-side)
4. Bluebird
5. My Life
6. You Ought To Know
7. Who’s Been Talkin (1960 7”, Chess 1750, A-side)
8. Tell Me (1960 7”, Chess 1750, B-side)
9. Somebody In My Home (Alternate Take)
10. Somebody In My Home (1957 78” and 7”, Chess 1668, A-side)
11. Nature (Takes 1/4/6)
12. Nature (Alternate Take)
13. Nature (1957 78” and 7”, Chess 1668, B-side)
14. Walk To Camp Hall
15. Poor Boy (Alternate Take)
16. Poor Boy (1958 78” and 7” [Last 78” on Chess], Chess 1679, B-side)
17. My Baby Told Me
18. Sittin’ On The Top Of The World (1958 78” and 7” [Last 78” on Chess], Chess 1679, A-side)
19. I Didn’t Know
20. I Better Go Now (Howlin’ Blues) (Alternate)
21. Howlin’ Blues (I’m Going Away) (1959 7”, Chess 1726, A-side)
22. I Better Go Now (Multiple Takes) (1959 7”, Chess 1726, B-side)
23. I Didn’t Know (1958 7” [1st 7” only release], Chess 1695, B-side)
24. Moaning For My Baby (Midnight Blues) (1958 7” [1st 7” only release], Chess 1695, A-side)
25. Moaning For My Baby (Midnight Blues) (Takes 3 & 4)
[Notes: Tracks 1 first released on the 1993 US 4CD Box Set by Various Artists called “Chess Blues” on Chess CHD4-9340
Tracks 4, 6, 12, 14, 15, 17 and 25 first released on the 1994 US 2CD compilation “Ain’t Gonna Be Your Dog” on Chess CD2-9349
Tracks 9, 11, 19, 20, 22* and 25* Previously Unreleased In The USA
[Tracks 22 except includes Chess single 1726; Track 25 except includes Alternate Take on “Ain’t Gonna Be Your Dog” 2CD set on Chess CHD2-9349]]

Disc 4, 19 Tracks, 1958 to 1960 (68:50 minutes):
1. I’m Leaving You (Alternate Take)
2. I’m Leaving You (Takes 7-10)
3. I’m Leaving You (1959 7”, Chess 1712, A-side)
4. Can’t Put Me Out (Alternate)
5. Can’t Put Me Out (Alternate)
6. (You) Can’t Put Me Out (Includes Additional Dialogue)
7. Change My Way (1959 7”, Chess 1712, B-side)
8. Getting Late
9. I’ve Been Abused (Takes 4-12)
10. I’ve Been Abused (1959 7”, Chess 1735, B-side)
11. Howlin’ For My Baby (Takes 1-7)
12. Howlin’ For My Darling (Or Baby) (1960 7”, Chess 1762, B-side)
13. Wolf In The Mood (Instrumental) [Includes Outtakes & Dialogue]
14. My People’s Gone
15. Mr. Airplane Man (Takes 1-2) [Plus Outtakes & Dialogue]
16. Mr. Airplane Man (1959 7”, Chess 1735, A-side)
17. Wang-Dang-Doodle (1961 7”, Chess 1777, A-side)
18. Back Door Man (1961 7” (recorded 1960), Chess 1777, B-side)
19. Spoonful (1960 7”, Chess 1762, A-side)
[Notes: Tracks 1, 2, 5, 9 and 11 Previously Unreleased In The USA
Track 4 first released on the 1982 US 2LP set “Chess Blues Rarities” on Chess CH2-9230
Track 15 first released on the 1991 US 3CD Box Set “Howlin’ Wolf – The Chess Box” on Chess CD3-9332
Tracks 6, 8, 13 (with Outtakes Dialogue) and 14 first released on the 1994 US 2CD compilation “Ain’t Gonna Be Your Dog” on Chess CD2-9349]

The hardback book packaging matches the look and feel of the MUDDY WATERS "Hoochie Coochie Man..." Hip-O Select 2CD set of 2004 (not as wide, but it's taller). "Smokestack Lightning..." has an embossed matt cardboard effect on the front cover with similarly textured pages within and is a non-numbered worldwide Limited Edition of 5000 copies. The 42-page booklet inside has an essay on Wolf (Pages 3 to 9) by PETER GURALNICK who is the award-winning Author of 2 books on Sam Cooke and Elvis Presley - with a forthcoming Biography on Sam Phillips. In fact Guralnick's entry here is a highly personal interview with SAM PHILLIPS on how the legendary and visionary Producer of Sun Records first tried to record the great bluesman and his band in 1951. Phillips warmly remembers the sheer impact of Wolf's powerhouse of a voice and physical presence (6' 3", 275 Pounds). Sam is full of passion and awe for the man who sang "...with his damn soul..." - bowled over even now - some 60 years after the event.

Not to be outdone, the liner notes on the project itself by DICK SHUMAN on Pages 11 to 19 are equally entertaining as they concentrate on the key musicians and recording dates. I particularly love the page that pictures "The New 708 Club" card invite for the Chicago Blues Club that tells you - you can see Muddy Waters on Mon, Wed and Thurs with Otis Rush on Fri, Sat and Sun but Howlin' Wolf is only available on Tues! Now there's a week of Blues gigs I want to attend! Pages 20 to 42 picture Trade Adverts, Black & White photos of his group, photos of his rare "Moanin' In The Moonlight" album from 1958 (front and rear) and end on a full track-by-track Discography. The 4CDs are held in individual leaves at the back - each disc colour scheme reflecting the original shellac and vinyl labels (Blue and White for the 78's - Blue and Silver for the famous Chess 45's).

As with so much of the enormous Chess catalogue - the remastering has been carried out by one of Universal's top engineers ERICK LABSON - a man with over 900 mastering and audio restoration credits to his name. This stuff is ROUGH - brutal even in places - and the remaster brings out that raw power. Some of the alternate takes are very crackly - but he has allowed them to breath and there's huge presence in every track.  Most of the songs on Disc 1 to 3 are self-penned like the staggering "Smoke Stack Lightning" (lyrics above), but by the time we get to the tail end of Disc 4 the catalyst of WILLIE DIXON arrives - sending everything into the stratosphere ("Spoonful" and "Wang Dang Doodle"). The combo of Wolf's voice and Dixon's witty tunes will undoubtedly dominate Volume 2.

Niggles - the packaging is lovely, but it's over too soon. Very few 78's or 45's are pictured and you can't help thinking that if Bear Family or Ace had handled this - it would be twice the size and truly beautiful in every way. And musically - the repetition of tracks and takes is hard to take - so a "Best Of" would suffice for the merely curious (or even a Willie Dixon set with HW tracks on it). Die-hard fans, however, of Howlin' Wolf, Chess Records and the Blues in general will have to own this.

To sum up - despite the slightly disappointing packaging - this is lovely evocation of a genuine force of nature - a singer who shaped so much of what we listen to and adore to this day. And if you want to know why so many white rock guys worshipped at his feet and regularly tried to kiss the hem of his garment - here is the place to start...

Like Otis Redding, Sam Cooke and Muddy Waters - how I wished I'd seen this giant live...

HOWLIN' WOLF DISCOGRAPHY referencing 
"Smokestack Lightning - The Complete Chess Masters 1951-1960"
2011 4CD Book Set on Hip-O Select/Geffen/Universal B0015309-2

Layout: [1/7] = Disc 1, Track 7 - [2/1] = Disc 2, Track 1 etc
(Year Of Release, Label & Catalogue Number)

HOWLIN' WOLF CHESS 78"s ONLY:
1. Moanin' At Midnight [1/1] b/w How Many More Years [1/3] (1951, Chess 1479)
2. Howlin' Wolf Boogie [1/7] b/w The Wolf Is At Your Door [1/4] (1952, Chess 1497)
3. Mr. Highway Man [1/12] b/w Getting' Old And Grey [1/11] (1952, Chess 1510)
4. Saddle My Pony [1/16] b/w Worried All The Time [1/10] (1952, Chess 1515)

HOWLING WOLF CHESS 78"s and 7"s:
5. Oh Red [1/22] b/w My Last Affair [1/23] (1952, Chess 1528) – his first US 7” single on Chess
6. All Night Boogie (All Night Long) [2/3] b/w I Love My Baby [2/4] (1953, Chess 1557)
7. No Place To Go (You Gonna Wreck My Life) [2/11] b/w Rockin' Daddy [2/15] (1954, Chess 1566)
8. Baby How Long [2/16] b/w Evil (Is Goin' On) [2/17] (1954, Chess 1575)
9. I'll Be Around [2/18] b/w Forty Four [2/19] (1955, Chess 1584)
10. Who Will Be Next [2/20] b/w I Have A Little Girl [2/21] (1955, Chess 1593)
11. Come To Me Baby [2/22] b/w Don't Mess With My Baby [2/23] (1955, Chess 1607)
12. Smoke Stack Lightning [2/24] b/w You Can't Be Beat [2/25] (1956, Chess 1618)
13. I Asked For Water [2/26] b/w So Glad (1956, Chess 1632) [2/27]
14. Going Back Home [3/3] b/w My Life [3/5] (1957, Chess 1648)
15. Somebody In My Home [3/10] b/w Nature [3/13] (1957, Chess 1668)
16. Sittin' On Top Of The World [3/18] b/w Poor Boy [3/16] (1958, Chess 1679)

HOWLIN' WOLF CHESS 7"s ONLY:
17. Moaning For My Baby [3/24] b/w I Didn't Know [3/23] (1958, Chess 1695)
18. I'm Leavin' You [4/3] b/w Change My Way [4/7] (1959, Chess 1712)
19. Howlin' Blues (I'm Going Away) [3/21] b/w I Better Go Now [3/22] (1959, Chess 1726)
20. Mr. Airplane Man [4/16] b/w I've Been Abused [4/10] (1959, Chess 1735)
21. The Natchez Burning [3/2] b/w You Gonna Wreck My Life (No Place To Go) (Alternate Take) [2/12] (1959, Chess 1744)
22. Spoonful [4/19] b/w Howlin' For My Darling (Or Baby) [4/12] (1960, Chess 1762)
23. Wang-Dang-Doodle [4/17] b/w Back Door Man [4/18] (1961, Chess 1777)

HOWLIN' WOLF CHESS LPs:
"Moanin' In The Moonlight" - 1958 USA MONO album on Chess LP-1434
Side 1:
1. Moanin' At Midnight [1/1]
2. How Many More Years [1/3]
3. Smokestack Lightning [2/24]
4. Baby How Long [2/15]
5. No Place To Go [2/11]
6. All Night Boogie [2/3]
Side 2:
1. Evil [2/17]
2. I'm Leavin' You [4/3]
3. Moanin' For My Baby [3/24]
4.  I Asked For Water (She Gave Me Gasoline) [2/26]
5. Forty-Four [2/19]
6. Somebody In My Home [3/10]

"Howlin' Wolf" – January 1962 USA MONO LP on Chess LP 1469
Side 1:
1. Shake For Me
2. The Red Rooster
3. You'll Be Mine
4. Who's Been Talkin' [3/7]
5. Wang Dang Doodle
6. Little Baby
Side 2:
1. Spoonful
2. Goin’ Down Slow
3. Down In The Bottom
4. Back Door Man
5. Howlin’ For My Baby [4/12]
6. Tell Me [3/8]
Tracks 5 on Side 1 and Tracks 1 and 4 on Side 2 recorded June 1960
Tracks 1, 2 and 6 on Side 1 and Track 3 on Side 2 recorded May 1961
Tracks 3 on Side 1 and Track 2 on Side 2 recorded December 1961
The other three cuts are from Fifties sessions as covered by Discs 3 and 4 of this Book Set

"The Real Folk Blues" - January 1966 USA MONO album on Chess LP 1502
Side 1:
1. Killing Floor
2. Louise
3. Poor Boy [3/16]
4. Sittin' On Top Of The World [3/18]
5. Nature [3/13]
6. My Country Sugar Mama
Side 2:
1. Tail Dragger
2. Three Hundred Pounds Of Joy
3. The Natchez Burnin' [3/2]
4. Build For Comfort
5. Ooh Baby Hold Me
6. Tell Me What I've Done
Tracks 1, 2 and 6 on Side 1 were recorded August 1964
Track 1 on Side 2 recorded September 1962
Tracks 2 and 4 on Side2 recorded August 1963
Tracks 5 and 6 on Side 2 recorded August 1965 – the other four songs on the LP are Fifties recordings covered by Disc 3 of this 4CD set as noted above.

"More Real Folk Blues" – January 1967 USA MONO LP on Chess LP 1512
Side 1:
1. Just My Kind [1/25]
2. I've Got A Woman [1/24]
3. Work For Your Money [1/26]
4. I'll Be Around [2/18]
5. You Can't Be Beat [2/25]
6. No Place To Go (You Gonna Wreck My Life) [2/11]
Side 2:
1. I Love My Baby [2/4]
2. Neighbors [2/13]
3. I'm The Wolf [2/14]
4. Rockin' Daddy [2/15]
5. Who Will Be Next [2/20]
6. I Have A Little Girl [2/21]

See also my review for the March 2002 CD reissue that combines the two Real Folk LPs onto 1CD Remaster - "The Real Folk Blues/More Real Folk Blues" by HOWLIN’ WOLF on Universal/MCA/Chess 088 122 820-2 (Barcode 008811282028).

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