Personnel: Howlin' Wolf (vocals, guitar, harmonica); Willie Dixon (vocals); Willie Connell Johnson, Freddie King, Hubert Sumlin, Jody Williams, Otis Smokey Smothers (guitar); Abb Locke, Arnold Rogers (tenor saxophone); Donald Hankins (baritone saxophone); Henry Gray, Ike Turner, Hosea Lee Kennard, Lafayette Leake, Otis Spann, Albert Williams (piano); Andrew James McMahon, Earl Phillips, Fred Below, Willie Steele, S.P. Leary, Sam Lay (drums).
Liner Note Author: Mark Humphrey.
Recording information: Chicago, IL (??/1951-08/1964); Memphis, TN (??/1951-08/1964).
Photographers: Peter Amft; Joseph Sia; Ray Flerlage; Frank Driggs; John Gibbs Rockwood.
The Howlin' Wolf best-of compilation DEFINITIVE COLLECTION sports the exact same track list as the CHESS 50th ANNIVERSARY COLLECTION. In fact, DEFINITIVE is a straight-up repackaging of that set, right down to the cover photo. Fortunately, CHESS 50th, and by extension DEFINITIVE COLLECTION, is staggeringly great, start to finish.
With a heavy emphasis on the Wolf's 1950s Chess classics such as "Smokestack Lightnin'," "I Asked for Water," and "Spoonful," it's impossible to go wrong with this collection. Wolf's band at the time, featuring the angular and inimitable Hubert Sumlin on guitar, could burn a house to the ground, but it's the Wolf's hulking vocal presence, replete with growls, groans, husky solicitations, and goosebump-raising yowls that earmark this material as some of the most compelling blues ever put to wax. Every track is essential, making the set a necessity for any fan of roots, blues, or rock.