Monday, April 04, 2005

Howlin' Wolf - Live and Cookin' at Alice's Revisited (Chess, 1974)

For someone who had such a fearsome live reputation, it's surprising that this is the only live album Chess ever released from the Wolf. This comes from near the end of Wolf's career but there was still a lot of gas in the tank. Backed by Eddie Shaw and the rest of the Wolf Gang, the group runs through some steaming blues before an appreciative audience.

It's interesting that Howlin' Wolf did not perform many of his most familiar songs during this performance. Only the blues standard "Sitting on Top of the World" survives from Wolf's earlier repertoire. This doesn't affect any of the energy one bit, you get the sense that the man could sing the phone book with a hot band behind him and it would sound great. Highlights include "I Had a Dream" in which Wolf belts out a week's worth of dreams filled with money, wealth and women only to wake up to find them gone. Wolf's braggadocio was little affected by his declining health and advancing years as he was still able to testify of his powers in "Call Me the Wolf."

Howlin' Wolf's awesome vocals and swooping harmonica connect with heavy hitters like Hubert Sumlin, Sunnyland Slim and Fred Below to create a deep pocket. Hearing Wolf at his peak in the 1950's must have been amazing, but this concert, in a comfortable Chicago club with a crack band shouldn't be missed by any fan of Chicago blues.

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