Chester Burnett aka. Howlin’ Wolf’s roots were in the Delta, with Charley Patton a particular inspiration, but his second album, a collection of 1957-1961 single sides, is a pinnacle of post-war Chicago blues. Wolf’s growled vocals, eerie moans, raw guitar and occasional harmonica are joined on most tracks by his longterm side-man: the brilliant, fluid and original guitarist Hubert Sumlin, whose inventive, melodic guitar lines and hypnotic riffs are as influential as Wolf himself. His 1959 debut LP Moanin’ In The Moonlight was self-penned. Here, though, nine of the 12 tracks are from Chess Records’ musical director, bassist and songwriter Willie Dixon. Wolf sometimes resented Dixon, telling the author Peter Guralnick, “I can do my own songs better.” Fact is, many of Wolf’s best recordings resulted from their collaboration. Now blues standards, Dixon’s The Red Rooster, Spoonful, and Back Door Man were perfect vehicles for Wolf’s menacing, predatory persona while the blues stomper Wang Dang Doodle proved Wolf and his band could rock any party. The impact was immense: the Stones took The Red Rooster (as Little Red Rooster) to No 1 in 1964, and the Wolf appeared with them on Shindig! in 1965. Meanwhile, Cream covered Spoonful and The Doors tackled Back Door Man. JH
Runners-up: Ray Charles Modern Sounds In Country And Western Music, Bob Dylan Bob Dylan, Booker T & The MGs Green Onions.