The London Howlin' Wolf Sessions [Deluxe Edition]

by: Howlin' Wolf

The London Howlin' Wolf Sessions was not a high point in the careers of either Howlin' Wolf or the guest superstars Eric Clapton, Bill Wyman, Charlie Watts, Stevie Winwood, and Ringo Starr, though it's not as bad as some blues purists make it out to be. Still, one has to wonder whether a deluxe edition two-CD set, padding out the original with an entire disc of previously unreleased alternate takes/alternate mixes (and three tracks from the same sessions that eventually showed up on the 1974 compilation London Revisited, which also included material by Muddy Waters), was really justified. The material existed, however, and fewer and fewer leftovers from the Chess catalog were available at the beginning of the 21st century. So here it is, bolstered by lengthy and entertaining liner notes spotlighting memories from producer Norman Dayron. The original album, presented here in its original mix, was adequate but flawed, for it seemed like the players, whether because they were in awe of and/or uncomfortable with Howlin' Wolf, went through the numbers tentatively, with an ill-at-ease looseness. A more serious flaw was that the program consisted entirely of remakes of classic Wolf tunes (some admittedly obscure) that couldn't help but suffer in comparison with the earlier originals. The alternate versions really aren't all that different from the ones selected for the album, and some, in fact, are just alternate mixes. There are, however, some occasional notable differences, like "What a Woman!" with an organ overdub,"Poor Boy" with different lyrics, "The Red Rooster" with an alternate piano, a rawer "Who's Been Talking" with lots of studio chat, an inferior "Do the Do" that does go on more than twice as long as the album rendition, and a "rehearsal take" (the only such item here) of "Worried About My Baby" that's far sparser than the one ultimately chosen. ~ Richie Unterberger

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