The Chess Box

by: Howlin' Wolf

This three-CD box set currently rates as the best -- and most digestible -- overview of Howlin' Wolf's career. Disc one starts with the Memphis sides that eventually brought him to the label, including hits like "How Many More Years," but also compiling unissued sides that had previously only been available on vinyl bootlegs of dubious origin and fidelity. The disc finishes with an excellent cross section of early Chicago sessions, including classic Wolf tracks like "Evil," "Forty Four," "I'll Be Around," and "Who Will Be Next?" Disc two picks it up from there, guiding listeners from mid- to late-'50s barnburners like "The Natchez Burning" and "I Better Go Now" to the bulk of the Willie Dixon classics. The final disc runs out the last of the Dixon sessions into mid-'60s classics like "Killing Floor," taking the listener to a nice selection of his final recordings. A really nice bonus on this box set is the inclusion on the first two discs of snippets from a 1968 Howlin' Wolf interview and two performances of Wolf playing solo acoustic. If you've heard the sound of the Wolf, here's where you go to get a lot of it in one place. Definitely not the place to start (unless you have money to burn), but maybe just the perfect place to end up. ~ Cub Koda

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