His Best: The Chess 50th Anniversary Collection

Howlin' Wolf

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His Best: The Chess 50th Anniversary Collection Review

by Cub Koda

With the exception of a vinyl compilation issued in the early '80s (His Greatest Sides, Vol. 1), there'd never really ever been a single-disc Howlin' Wolf best-of package available. That all changed with this entry in MCA/Chess' 50th Anniversary series, a 20-track retrospective that serves as the perfect introduction to the man and his music, some of the very best the blues has to offer. While some naysayers will always decry the exclusion -- or inclusion -- of any given number of tracks on any artist's best-of compilation, it's pretty hard to fault what's been collected here. Starting with the two-sided smash that brought him from Memphis to Chicago ("Moanin' at Midnight" b/w "How Many More Years"), this compilation hits all the high points and essential tracks, illustrating how his music developed into the mid-'60s. Eleven of the 20 tunes on here are either written or co-written by Willie Dixon, and Wolf's original takes on "Back Door Man," "Spoonful," "The Red Rooster," "Wang Dang Doodle," and "I Ain't Superstitious" are truly the definitive ones, a place where personality and material symbiotically become as one. Even if you have already have this material, die-hard Wolf fans -- and audiophiles in particular -- will want to investigate this package as the master transfers used here are absolutely stunning, with stereo mixes of "Killing Floor," "Built for Comfort," "Hidden Charms" (with the full-length Hubert Sumlin guitar solo), "Shake for Me," and the long version of "Going Down Slow" being particular standouts. This is a set so essential that it should be on everyone's Top Ten first purchases in building the perfect blues collection. While Wolf's music will take you to many places (both musically and spiritually), here's where you start to absorb it all. [His Best contains the same tracks as the 2007 Geffen release The Definitive Collection].

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 Howlin' Wolf 02:56 SpotifyAmazon
2 Howlin' Wolf 02:43 SpotifyAmazon
3 Howlin' Wolf 02:55
4 Howlin' Wolf 02:49 SpotifyAmazon
5 Howlin' Wolf 03:09 SpotifyAmazon
6 Howlin' Wolf 02:52 SpotifyAmazon
7 Howlin' Wolf 02:24 SpotifyAmazon
8 Howlin' Wolf 02:34 SpotifyAmazon
9 Howlin' Wolf 02:33 SpotifyAmazon
10 Howlin' Wolf 02:25 SpotifyAmazon
11 Howlin' Wolf 02:51 SpotifyAmazon
12 Howlin' Wolf 02:45 SpotifyAmazon
13 Howlin' Wolf 02:18 SpotifyAmazon
14 Howlin' Wolf 02:29 SpotifyAmazon
15 Howlin' Wolf 02:56 SpotifyAmazon
16 Howlin' Wolf 04:04 SpotifyAmazon
17 Howlin' Wolf 03:07 SpotifyAmazon
18 Howlin' Wolf 02:23 SpotifyAmazon
19 Howlin' Wolf 02:39 SpotifyAmazon
20 Howlin' Wolf 02:49 SpotifyAmazon
blue highlight denotes track pick