HOWLIN' WOLF (rocking chair album)
by Paul AckermanThe 12 performances here are a combination of new and old material- so as to present the best possible cross-section of the artist's work to date. The arrangements and the instrumental accompaniments, particularly the guitar, harmonica and piano, capture the fullest the concept of 'blue tonality.'
The first two selections, 'Moanin' At Midnight' and 'How Many More Years' were big single hits for Howlin' Wolf. The former is a mood piece which captures the eerie, lonesome atmosphere of an isolated dwelling, is hard to match. The latter, with its strongly-marked piano figure, changes the pace and atmosphere entirely, for it presents the point of view of the man who finds his nagging wife too much to bear.
'Smokestack Lightnin',' a powerful side with a world of flavor, presents a picture of anguish as the man asks his 'baby' where she stayed during the night. 'Baby How Long' is in a brighter mood, relatively fast in tempo, and with an extrememly facile piano part abetting the harmonica and drums.
'No Place To Go' with its strong, repeating figure in the instrumental arrangement, is a powerful document- the story of an aging man who realizes he has lost his woman and has no where to go. Its structural simplicity, lyrically and muscially, is perfect. 'All Night Boogie' is an uptempo blues with a rollicking beat which bellies the essential sadness of the theme: that of the man who wakes up and finds his 'baby' gone.
'Evil' is sung in Howlin' Wolf's best shouting style. The lyric is vastly interesting and entertaining- being a catalog of things to be suspicious of, if one is to perserve a happy home. The piano here, particularly the right hand, is of amazing flexibilty. 'I'm Leavin' You' presents another aspect of domestic life- surely not one of bliss.
'Woman, I got to put you down,' the man tells his helpmate, who is described as rolling 'bloodshot eyes.' 'Moanin' For My Baby' presents the singer in a relatively relaxed, pensive mood. The theme is one well-rooted in the blues- longing for a loved one. The mood changes to bitterness in the next performance titled 'I Asked For Water (She Gave Me Gasoline).'
'Forty-Four' has an arresting arrangement, makred chiefly by an usual drum figure which is retained throughout the selection. 'Somebody in My Home' with its slow temp and reptitive musical figure in the arrangement, is another mood piece- typical of the artist's ability to paint a sombre scene with very few words.
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