Howlin' Wolf

Walk That Walk

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Subtitled "Wolfman at the Chess Studio, 1957-59," this documents at least one complete alternate take of eight titles along with a plethora of breakdowns, false starts, and studio chitchat from Leonard Chess, Wolf, and some of the sidemen on the various dates. Actually, the "Chess studio" appellation is somewhat misleading, as the majority of these sides were either cut at Sheldon or Universal, two of Chicago's best equipped and busiest studios, where the Chess brothers did much of their early recording. The real joy, of course, is hearing how all these classic tracks came together in the studio, most of them shaped into finished form by the watchful eye and ear of label owner Leonard Chess. Chess always knew what he was looking for in a great blues performance, and the opening track, "I've Been Abused," sets the tone for this collection of wonderful fly-on-the-wall recordings. "I'm Leaving You" shows Chess working with Hubert Sumlin to nail a proper intro while getting the best out of Wolf and the rest of the band to get a finished take. "Howlin' for My Baby" is the furthest afield from the released version, as Wolf completely ignores Willie Dixon's lyrics and melody line for "Howlin' for My Darlin'," coming up with his own lyrics and tune to the riff. As Leonard Chess finally gets the drummer to lock in on a groove, he next goes after Wolf to get him back on course with middling results out of the cantankerous bluesman. "Nature" features studio chat between Wolf and one of the session players as he gets plenty steamed over the course of seven failed attempts at the song. "Moaning For My Baby" more or less comes off without a hitch, while the previously unissued instrumental "Wolf In the Mood" prompts Wolf into another altercation with Chess over the title. More nasty talk occurs on "Mr. Airplane Man" where Chess admonishes Wolf for screwing up the lyrics on the first take ("Uh Wolf, an airplane man flies, he don't sail! If he's an airplane man, he's got to fly. A boat man sails.") before starting up another attempt at the tune. The closer for this collection is the original run through of "I Better Go Now," which is followed by the first attempt to get it down on tape, a great raw moment of pure feeling. Although the practice of serving up alternate takes is a somewhat suspect one and listening to songs fall apart at a moment's notice while producer and artist cuss each other out -- and it does get pretty raunchy at times -- is not for everybody, hardcore Wolf (and Chess) fans will want to go the extra mile to seek this out to add to the collection anyway. Comes with a complete lyric sheet that also documents the studio chatter as well.