Saturday, 4 October 2014

"The London Howlin' Wolf Sessions by HOWLIN' WOLF [feat Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts] (2003 Universal/MCA/Chess 2CD 'Deluxe Edition' - Erick Labson Remasters] - A Review by Mark Barry..

“…Wang Dang Doodle…” 

Like many avid collectors I've felt that Universal's 2CD 'Deluxe Edition' series has had some dubious expansions of popular albums across the reissue decades - forever chasing our battered debit cards with yet another sonic temptation. But sometimes - just sometimes - you get the perfect blend. You get a forgotten album that shouldn't be - extras actually worthy of the moniker 'bonus tracks' - classy and sympathetic presentation and a Remaster Engineer capable of bringing genuine new life back into old recordings. Ladies and Gentlemen (and those of you who aren't sure) - welcome to one of those 'DE' beauties. Here are the little red roosters and the wang dang doodles...

Released March 2003 - "The London Howlin' Wolf Sessions: Deluxe Edition" by HOWLIN' WOLF on MCA/Chess 088 112 985-2 (Barcode 008811298524) is a 2CD set of Remasters and breaks down as follows (see below re Single Disc ‘Rarities’ Edition):

Disc 1 (56:52 minutes):
1. Rockin' Daddy (Side 1)
2. A Ain't Superstitious
3. Sittin' On The Top Of The World
4. Worried About My Baby
5. What A Woman!
6. Poor Boy
7. Build For Comfort (Side 2)
8. Who's Been Talking?
9. The Red Rooster (False Start And Dialogue)
10. The Red Rooster
11. Do The Do
12. Highway 49
13. Wang Dang Doodle
Tracks 1 to 13 are the album "The London Howlin' Wolf Sessions" - released August 1971 in the UK on Rolling Stones Records COC 47101 and Chess CH-60008 in the USA

14. Goin' Down Slow
15. Killing Floor
16. I Want A Word With You
Tracks 14 to 16 are Bonus Tracks - they originally appeared on the American Muddy Waters & Howlin' Wolf LP "London Revisited" from 1974 on Chess CH 60026. They're Newly Remixed From The Session Multi-Tracks for this reissue

Disc 2 (52:50 minutes):
1. Worried About My Baby (Rehearsal Take)
2. The Red Rooster (Alternate Mix With Alternate Piano)
3. What A Woman (A/K/A/ Commit A Crime) (Alternate Take)
4. Who's Been Talking (Alternate Take With False Start & Dialog)
5. Worried About My Baby (Alternate Take)
6. I Ain't Superstitious (Alternate Take)
7. Highway 49 (Alternate Take)
8. Do The Do (Extended Alternate Take)
9. Poor Boy (Alternate Lyrics Mix)
10. I Ain't Superstitious (Alternate Mix)
11. What A Woman (A/K/A Commit A Crime) (Alternate Mix With Organ Overdub)
12. Rockin' Daddy (Alternate Mix)
(All tracks on Disc 2 PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED; Tracks 1 to 8 are newly remixed - Tracks 9 to 12 are the original 1970 mixdown sessions)

It was reissued in the UK on MCA/Chess 0600753278505 (Barcode 600753278505) in a 2CD jewel case - dropping the 'DE' packaging of a gatefold digipak in a wrap. 

The first thing that hits you is the awesome sound - remastered by ERICK LABSON. I've sung this man's praises before on many occasions - he's one of Universal's principal sound engineers and has been involved in excess of 1,100 reissues including the vast majority of the huge Chess catalogue. This guy knows his way around tapes like this - and his work here is fabulous - ballsy, clear and full of power. Once of the outer DELUXE EDITION plastic slipcase - the gatefold card digipak offers up a wide and long booklet that is classily put together. You get a revealing interview with NORMAN DAYRON the original engineer, pictures from the period and sessions and a recording credits roll call of ace British and American musicians lining up to play with their hero - ERIC CLAPTON (Guitars), STEVE WINWOOD (Keyboards), BILL WYMAN and CHARLIE WATTS of THE ROLLING STONES (Bass and Drums), HUBERT SUMLIN (Guitar), JEFFREY M. CARP (Harmonica), PHIL UPCHURCH (Bass) and IAN STEWART with LAFAYETTE LEAKE (Piano) to name but some.

Like "Fathers & Sons" with Muddy Waters and The Paul Butterfield Band blowing up a storm in 1969 - I've always felt this "London Session" was one of the most successful of those Blues-Rock collaboration albums precisely because of who was involved (Clapton in particular was in blinding form). Chester Burnett wasn't in the best of health (he would be lost to us in early 1976) - and at times his voice does seem ever so-slightly uncomfortable with the arrangements and the UK surroundings - but Clapton and his adoring boys broke the ice and brought in a formidable project in the end.

Side 1 opens with the Wolf's own "Rockin' Daddy" followed by Willie Dixon's "I Ain't Superstitious" and the joint is jumping right away. We get mean and gritty with a harmonica and piano-driven "Sittin' On Top Of The World" and the horns of Dennis Lansing, Joe Miller and Jordan Sandke back up the band for "Built For Comfort". Clapton tears into "Red Rooster" - really enjoying himself after giving the master the respect he needed by asking the Wolf to lead on guitar. But if was to single out two killers - it's the rocking "What A Woman!" and the unbelievably good Blues Boogie of "Highway 49" (a Joe Williams cover). I've put them on countless Shop Play CDs in Reckless - and it never failed - kids rushing to the counter wanting to know who `the real deal' is...

The 3 extras on Disc 1 are unbelievable - "Goin' Down Slow" featuring blistering slow bluesy harmonica playing from Jeffrey Carp - then his own "Killing Floor" in boogie style with the band sounding in your face and loving it. As if that's not enough - Disc 1 finishes with another storming version of one of the album's highlights "What A Woman!" Wow!

It's arguable that Disc 2 is actually a better album - meaner and grittier - with versions that are complete but rougher around their frayed edges. The slashing slide guitar on "Red Rooster" and the boogie of "What A Woman!" are fantastic stuff. Love the harmonica and shambolic feel to "Worried About My Baby" - razor sharp bass and vocals too in the remaster. And the piano is far more to the fore for "Highway 49" - his presence exuding out of the speakers ("stop by the whiskey store...and get me a jug of wine...").

Hospitalised in late 1975 with liver failure after an automobile accident - he passed away 10 January 1976 - one of the true greats - a Blues force of nature that wouldn't be tamed.

Hit the Blues Highway 49 children and start your journey to the dark side here...

PS: There is a subsequent American-only 2010 single-disc reissue called "The London Howlin' Wolf Sessions (Rarities Edition) - Essential Collector's Tracks" on MCA/Chess B0013720-02 (Barcode 602527256207). It's 15-tracks gather up Tracks 14, 15 and 16 on Disc 1 and Tracks 1 to 12 on Disc of the DELUXE EDITION and clumps them all onto 1CD. I mention this because unfortunately if you use the Barcode for that one-disc version (602527256207) - Amazon will bring to what looks like the 2CD DE version when it's not. If you want the 2CD-DE Version - you must use the Barcode provided above in my review (Barcode 600753278505)...

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