• Cream of The Crate: CD's #16- The London Howling Wolf Sessions

      0 Not allowed! Not allowed!
      "The unadulterated success of this disc is due to the Wolf's still-brooding, blues-malevolent vocal expertise." [Rolling Stone 1971 review]

      "No single Chicago bluesman exerted a stronger influence on the '60s Anglo rock brigade than Howlin' Wolf." [Don Snowden - liner notes]

      CD Cover

      This is number sixteen in the series of albums I'm featuring as part of an on-going retrospective of CD's in my personal collection. The series is called, "Cream of The Crate (CD's)", and they represent CD albums that I believe are of significant musical value, either because of their rarity, because they represent the best of a style or styles of music or because their is something unique about the group or the music.

      This is a single stand-alone CD with very little airs and graces, yet in many ways it was a seminal album at the time of its release.

      Titled, The London Howlin' Wolf Sessions, it was released on the Chess label, originally as a vinyl LP in the summer of 1971 on Chess Records, catalog CH 60008, and it was re-released on CD in 1989 on the Chess MCA label (CHD-9297).
      The English LP release actually was released on the Rolling Stones Records label.
      There was also a 2003 'delux' release with two additional tracks not released on the original vinyl or CD releases.

      Rear of the CD Booklet

      The reason I believe this album was, and indeed still is seminal, was that it bought together possibly one of the two greatest Chicago blues players (the other being Muddy Waters who recorded his own 'London Sessions' in 1972) and some of the cream of the British white musicians of the day, many of whom had totally embraced the blues genre. This meeting of the best of the 'black and white' blues players resulted in a fabulous album, rich with passion and superb in outcome!

      Although both Muddy Waters and Chuck Berry would follow suite, in my mind this is the best of the three sessions and it's like can never be done again!

      The list of musicians on this album reads like a veritable whose who of the best! In addition to the great Howlin' Wolf there was:

      • Eric Clapton (lead guitar)
      • Steve Winwood (piano & organ)
      • Bill Wyman (bass)
      • Charlie Watts (drums and percussion)
      • Hubert Sumlin (rhythm guitar)
      • Jeffrey Carpe (harmonica)
      • Ian Stewart (piano)
      • Klaus Voorman (bass)
      • Phil Upchurch (bass)
      • Lafayette Leake (piano)

      The album was Engineered by Glyn Johns (who worked with many of the best including Bob Dylan, the Easybeats, the Beatles, the Stones, the Who & Led Zepplin, just to name very few) and was recorded in London and remixed in Chicago.
      It was produced by Norman Dayron who was Chess Records staff producer.

      The tracks that were eventually released reads like part of the "Howling Wolf Song-book", which comes as no surprise.

      SIDE 1

      1. "Rockin' Daddy" 3:43 (recorded May 4, 1970)
        • Howlin' Wolf vocal; Hubert Sumlin rhythm guitar; Eric Clapton lead guitar; Ian Stewart piano; Phil Upchurch bass; Charlie Watts drums.

      2. "I Ain't Superstitious" (Willie Dixon) 3:34 (recorded May 2, 1970)
        • Wolf vocal; Sumlin rhythm guitar; Clapton lead guitar; Steve Winwood piano; Klaus Voormann bass; Ringo Starr drums; Jordan Sandke trumpet; Dennis Lansing tenor saxophone; Joe Miller baritone saxophone; Bill Wyman cowbell.[9]

      3. "Sittin' On Top Of The World" 3:51 (recorded May 6, 1970)
        • Wolf vocal; Jeffrey Carp harmonica; Sumlin rhythm guitar; Clapton lead guitar; Lafayette Leake piano; Wyman bass; Watts drums.

      4. "Worried About My Baby" 2:55 (recorded May 7, 1970)
        • Wolf vocal, harmonica; Sumlin rhythm guitar; Clapton lead guitar; Leake piano; Wyman bass; Watts drums.

      5. "What A Woman!" (James Oden) 3:02 (recorded May 7, 1970)
        • Wolf vocal; Carp harmonica; Sumlin rhythm guitar; Clapton lead guitar; Winwood organ; Wyman bass; Watts drums.

      6. "Poor Boy" 3:04 (recorded May 4, 1970)
        • Wolf vocal; Carp harmonica; Sumlin rhythm guitar; Clapton lead guitar; Winwood piano; Wyman bass; Watts drums.

      SIDE 2

      1. "Built For Comfort" (Dixon) 2:08 (recorded May 7, 1970)
        • Wolf vocal; Sumlin rhythm guitar; Clapton lead guitar; Stewart piano; Wyman bass; Watts drums; Sandke trumpet; Lansing, Miller saxophones

      2. "Who's Been Talking?" 3:02 (recorded May 7, 1970)
        • Wolf vocal, harmonica; Sumlin rhythm guitar; Clapton lead guitar; John Simon piano; Winwood organ; Wyman bass, shaker; Watts drums, conga, percussion.

      3. "The Red Rooster (Rehearsal)" 1:58 (recorded May 7, 1970)
        • Wolf vocal; guitar; other personnel as below

      4. "The Red Rooster" (Willie Dixon) 3:47 (recorded May 7, 1970)
        • Wolf vocal; Sumlin rhythm guitar; Clapton lead guitar; Leake piano; Wyman bass; Watts drums.

      5. "Do The Do" (Willie Dixon) 2:18 (recorded May 6, 1970)
        • Wolf vocal; Sumlin rhythm guitar; Clapton lead guitar; Stewart piano; Wyman bass, cowbell; Watts drums.

      6. "Highway 49" (Joe Lee Williams) 2:45 (recorded May 6, 1970)
        • Wolf vocal; Carp harmonica; Sumlin rhythm guitar; Clapton lead guitar; Winwood piano; Wyman bass; Watts drums.

      7. "Wang-Dang-Doodle" (Willie Dixon) 3:27 (recorded May 4, 1970)
        • Wolf vocal; Carp harmonica; Sumlin rhythm guitar; Clapton lead guitar; Stewart piano; Wyman bass; Watts drums.

      There is a basic booklet that comes with the CD, it is better than most single CD notes, but nothing spectacular at the same time. Don Snowden, who has written cover notes for many re-released albums and who is Co-author of I Am The Blues: The Willie Dixon Story by Willie Dixon, provides 3 pages of background information and there are two pages of track listings and credits.
      Snowden commences his writing in this booklet by saying, "No single Chicago bluesman exerted a stronger influence on the '60s Anglo rock brigade than Howling Wolf

      The fact that the British A - list showed up at London's Olympic Sound Studio, would certainly reinforce this statement. It was the opportunity for them to pay appropriate homage to this giant of a man and the music that was laid down behind the all-powerful Wolf vocals, reeks of respect.

      Track # 1 - Rockin' Daddy; while unadulterated blues, showed that the Wolf could not only write great uptempo music, but could belt it out vocal wise. It doesn't take long for Eric Clapton to burst through with his unmistakable style and the track provides a great platform to launch the album from.

      Rockin' Daddy

      Track # 3 - Sitting On Top Of The World is one of my favourite Wolf tracks and so I listen with a particularly critical ear. It is substantially different to the version I have on the album "Real Folk Blues", but different doesn't mean better or worse, it means different!

      Jeffrey Carp
      provides a good harp backing, but I find him of all the players on this album, to be the most interesting choice in as much as he is in my opinion a good harp player, but why had I not heard more about, or from him? Well it appears he died not long after this record was made, in 1973. Despite being only 25 years of age, he appeared on some 23 albums, including one's by Earl Hooker, Eric Clapton and Muddy Waters. His playing is good and behind the piano playing of Leake and the solid beat laid down by the 'old firm' Wyman and Watts and the most excellent guitar work of Clapton, we have an excellent, if not different, version of this classic track.

      L to R - Ian Stewart, Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger, Norman Dayron, Howling Wolf & Jeff Carpe

      Sitting On Top Of The World

      Side 2, Track #1 is another long time favourite, Built for Comfort. This is the most 'different' version of all the tracks on this album. It has very much a 'swing' type feel to it, while still retaining an 'electric Chicago' feel. From the moment the track starts and the horns come in, you know this is a major rearrangement. I'd be less than honest if I didn't say the version, for example, on Real Folk Blues is superior in terms of a 'true Wolf' style of singing, I like this version.

      With Ian Stewart (the 6th Stone) joining Bill and Charley, and Eric once again on guitar, although taking a much more backseat position in the track, it allows Jordan Sandke and Dennis Lansing (providing the horn accompaniment) to 'do their thing', ably
      assisted by Joe miller on Sax, and, they do it well.

      If you are not familiar with the trumpet work of Jordan Sandke, he is a much revered player who has played with the likes of Duke Ellington and the Widespread Depression Orchestra just to mention a couple of names. Dennis Lansing on trumpet played with Mighty Joe Young (as did Sandke). Joe Miller on Sax (who can also play trumpet) was a much sought after session man, who can claim to have also provided part of the brass backing for the likes of Lionel Ritchie.

      Built For Comfort

      Finally I have chosen tracks #9 & # 10 - Little Red Rooster. Track # 9 is simply labeled 'false start and dialogue. But when you listen to it, it is obviously a rehearsal version, fleshing out the parts each were to play. It is utterly fascinating listening to the interplay between them all as they 'learn' their parts.

      Little Red Rooster (Rehearsal)

      Clapton and Wolf

      Clapton tries to encourage Wolf to play along with them, and he does - but not on the final version, track #10.

      I doubt that there is a 'bad' version of Little Red Rooster, and if there is, it sure wasn't a version ever sung by the Wolf. Written by Willie Dixon it is one of the tracks that has to be labelled a 'classic'!

      With Hubert Sumlin on what is loosely called 'rhythm' guitar, we hear Clapton play superb slide guitar. Charlie Watts lays down a fantastic and solid drum track, and I absolutely love Lafayette Leake on piano. Lafayette played piano on many of tracks by Chuck Berry. What do I say about the bass playing? It's Bill Wyman! Wyman is incapable of playing a bad bass line - and as usual he and Watts are playing hand in glove.

      Little Red Rooster

      It had been a while since I had played this album right through, and I'd be less than honest if i didn't admit to playing it through twice as i wrote this piece, and some tracks multiple times.

      If you want pure unadulterated Howling Wolf, then you play Howlin' Wolf! If you want to hear Howlin' Wolf sounding superb, and playing with what might very well have been the very best 'white' backing outfit at the time - then this IS the album.

      This is an absolute and utter must for any good collection. The album is not hard to get and not expensive, so there are no excuses.

      Chester Burnett - aka Howlin' Wolf died not many years after this album, in 1975 (at the very young age of 65) in fact, and this is certainly part of the magnificent legacy he left.

      I think I will let Don Snowden have the last word, in fact the words he uses to finish his piece in the liner notes.

      "... this collection amply testifies that, in the proper company, Howlin' Wolf was still more than capable of making his music go ...BOOOOM!"

      The vinyl LP, CD and Delux CD are all available on Ebay. Hey! there are even cassette versions available. Prices range from $10.00 up.

      VIDEOS - Sadly it appears as though none of these sessions were ever filmed, and if they were, they have not been released on Youtube. What I have done is to choose the one track not used in the review and where the video clip still shots have been done tastefully and well.

      The second video was recorded prior to the 'London Sessions' but features the Wolf playing with Billy Preston and with, the Stones in the audience.

      Wang Dang Doodle

      How many More Years

      Previous Cream of the Crate Albums

      If you are interested in checking out the first fifty vinyl albums reviewed, just click HERE

      Cream of The Crate CD Reviews

      #1 - The Fugs: The Fugs First Album

      #2 - Robert Johnson: The Complete Recordings

      #3 - Bob Dylan: Biograph

      #4 - Robin Trower: Essential

      #5 - Sixties Down Under: Volume 1 (Various)

      #6 - The Big Ol' Box Of New Orleans: Various Artists

      #7 - Hugh Masekela: African Breeze

      #8- The Last Poets: The Legend


      #9 - Sister Rosetta Tharpe: Down By The River Side

      #10 - Sixties Down Under (Volume 2): Various Artists

      #11 - The Beatles: On Air Live at the BBC Volume 2

      #12 - The Rolling Stones: Singles Collection The London Years

      #13 - Girl Groups Of The '60s: Various Artists

      #14 - The Byrds: There Is A Season

      #15 - Sixties Down Under (Volume 3): Various Artists