In its original form, Crown's Howlin' Wolf Sings the Blues LP was a patchwork compilation of sides cut for the Modern label in 1951-1952, including three songs that had previously showed up on RPM singles, a bunch of outtakes not released on 45, and a couple instrumentals that weren't even the work of Howlin' Wolf himself. The material hails from that confusing junction in his discography where his first Memphis recordings were being leased to both Modern and Chess, which is why material from that era has tended to get released on different labels. Certainly the Wolf's Modern sessions could have been better represented than they were by this 1962 album, but it's still groundbreaking early electric blues, though not quite up to the peaks he'd scale with his best Chess sessions of the mid-'50s to the mid-'60s. The electric guitar had rarely been recorded with as much fuzzy power as it was here, for one thing, and Howlin' Wolf's vocals were already possessed of magnificent, sometimes scary intensity. The same could be said of his lyrical imagery on songs like "Riding in the Moonlight," "Morning at Midnight" (aka "Moanin' at Midnight"), "Dog Me Around" (aka "How Many More Years"), and "Crying at Daybreak," which is actually an early version of his classic "Smokestack Lightning." "House Rockin' Boogie" and "Keep What You Got," meanwhile, are more good-time, fast-paced numbers that point toward not only the future of electric blues, but to some of the future traits of rock & roll. The continuity of the anthology, however, is disrupted by the inclusion of two Joe Hill Louis instrumentals at the end of each LP side, though those are respectable enough early electric blues harmonica workouts, somewhat in the mold of a raw Little Walter. This has almost everything Howlin' Wolf cut for Modern in the early '50s, and is thus an essential supplement to his more celebrated Chess catalog for the serious fan.
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AllMusic Review by Richie Unterberger