Howlin' Wolf / Muddy Waters / Bo Diddley

The Super Super Blues Band

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This is easily a "super super blues bust." Power trios, of course, were hip in the late '60s -- even at down-home Chess Studios, where ad hoc "supergroups" were assembled for 1967's Super Blues and its sequel, Super Super Blues Band. (No one ever accused Chess Records of being subtle.) The band on Super Super Blues Band included two-thirds of the original Super Blues headliners -- Muddy Waters and Bo Diddley -- with Howlin' Wolf replacing Little Walter to round out the trio. Unlike Walter, who was willing to cede the spotlight to Diddley and Waters on Super Blues, Wolf adamantly refuses to back down from his rivals, resulting in a flood of contentious studio banter that turns out to be more entertaining than the otherwise unmemorable music from this stylistic train wreck. Although Wolf and Waters duke it out in earnest on the blues standards, the presence of Diddley (and his rave-up repertoire) makes the prospect of an ensemble impossible; in the end, there are just too many clashing ingredients (the squealing "girlie" choruses vs. Wolf's growl, Diddley's space guitar antics vs. Waters' uncompromising slide guitar) to make the mix digestible. Meanwhile, as the three frontmen struggle to outduel each other on every song, they drown out an underused, all-star backing band made up of Otis Spann on piano, Hubert Sumlin on guitar, Buddy Guy on bass, and Clifton James on drums. At least it sounds like they had fun doing it.

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