A Great Overview of The Wolf's Blues!
Perry Celestino | Tahmoor, NSW Australia | 07/12/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Chester Burnett aka Howlin" Wolf was one of the giants of Blues (Literally!). His music set the standard for the whole Blues genre and led the way vis-a-vis the British Invasion for the 1960s Blues Revival that led to Hendrix, Heavy Metal, Jazz-Fusion, Funk, Rap and so on. Wolf's music was interesting and more varied than any other Bluesman at the time (witness "Evil", "Spoonful", "Back Door Man" and "Little Red Rooster", all are different, unlike most of Muddy's tunes (except ones like "Walking In The Park"). The Wolf was an innovator and a good writer too. Willie Dixon actually wrote tunes for Wolf like he would have written for himself! Interesting!
I had the pleasure of seeing Wolf live in New York in 1967 at the famous Cafe au Go Go's Blues Bag. I will never forget it. The band started playing "Smokestack Lightning" and Wolf came out with the spotlight BEHIND him looking like a mountain! He was the standard for all blues singers-rock not gospel like B.B. or soul, like Albert King. He was a great entertainer too.
When the Wolf tribute band (Hubert Sumlin and Mojo Buford) came to Australia in 1991 I saw them. I got to meet Hubert, told him about my seeing Wolf in 1967 and he hugged me!! What a thrill!
Well this DVD is fabulous and historical. It has a lot of extras and a good lenght (90 min). I have to give it four stars because as a 40 year Blues fan I would have expected more film clips of his performances and if you couldn't find anymore this DVD should have included more bits from his American Folk Blues appearances (there is only one on this DVD). In Scorsese's "Blues"(Road To Memphis) he has a curious version of Wolf doing "Evil" which is not in this DVD!
The main reason why I gave this four instead of five stars is that there is not any new or complete concert footage or new tunes. The tunes shown in Black and White have all been released on the Vestapol DVD: "Devil Got My Woman" (This footage has already been used a lot e.g. "Lightning in a Bottle" and the "Blues" series by Scorsese) along with rare footage of the great Skip James (get this is it actually better than this DVD!)
I was expecting some newly released footage of Wolf in color from some of his many appearances in the late 1960s and early seventies. Let's face it, like with the great Albert King-footage of these great Blues Innovators needs to be released in concert format- Like Albert's Ann Arbor Blues Festival set and Wolf's many Blues festival appearances like the Chicago Blues Festivals of the late 1960s.
The rest of the film is superb. Sam Lay's home movies and getting to see where the club was that Muddy and Wolf had played at is great (today it's a vacant lot!!). The interviews with his daughter's are also interesting, it seems like Big Wolf was much more a family man than Muddy (see "Can't be Satisfied" DVD). Overall this a wonderful addition to one's music library at a reasonable price."
The Awesome Howlin' Wolf..KING of THE BLUES comes ALIVE
J. K. Rost | 10/24/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I saw a festival screening of this AMAZING Blues documentary....why it wasn't included in the lame MARTIN SCORCESE'S
PRESENTS : THE BLUES series I do not know (perhaps cause most of the series WAS so lame!)....maybe because the filmmakers are REAL blues scholars and serious documentarians of American Music ..unlike the dilitants and celebrities who were choosen to directed most of the Scorcese films.(Clint Eastwoood, please, give me a break...not much relevance to blues in his flabby 90 minutes!)HOWLIN WOLF is nodoubt one of the most awe-inspiring performers and he is shown in some really amazing and rare clips throughout his career...plus,( Where did director Don McGlynn and Producer Joe Lauro FIND this amazing footage??).. they some how are able to also expose the sensitive HUMAN side of this blues god!....a REAL indept look at one of the true all time legends of the Blues."
The Wolf Lives!
eugene j. casey | Sag Harbor, NY | 10/30/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is a concise, affectionate and well-researched documentary on one of the true giants of the blues. It includes contemporary interviews with Wolf's family and friends and bandmates (including the great Hubert Sumlin) and rare footage of Wolf in his element (including some great full color shots of south side Chicago night clubs, as well as the famous Shindig show, introduced by the Rolling Stones.) It's too bad Wolf didn't live long enough to reap the rewards his rival Muddy Waters did. Still this film goes a long ways to putting Wolf's career in perpective, i.e., among the greats."
The Secret Vendetta Of McGlynn And Lauro?
J. K. Rost | Memphis, TN | 12/11/2004
(2 out of 5 stars)
"I watched this Documentary right after finishing the Howlin' Wolf biography "Moanin' At Midnight" written by James Segrest and Mark Hoffman, so I have to start by saying that the book is a masterpiece in Blues literature. It reads like a biography should, and not just the compilation of random facts and educated guesses that most Blues biographies are. It ranges from comical to moving (a rarity in Blues Bio's)and tells a great story in the process. This DVD was a real letdown in comparison. There were some high spots. Sam's Lay's silent home movies were cool (seeing the Wolf and Sumlin on stage with Sonny Boy and Little Watler in the audience), as well as parts of the documentary throughout, but I was confused as to why they relied so heavily on the footage from the makeshift juke joint at the Newport Festival. There's a lot of better Wolf performance footage out there, like the remainder of the European tour footage that wasn't used here. I've never seen footage where Wolf's own performance wasn't top notch, but the other players were out of tune and at their sloppiest here. Besides that, way too much effort was put into showing how badly Son House had deteriorated. They came back to the subject several times and I thought it was cruelly unnecessary. We all know he was a pitiful drunk at the end, and a disappointment to Wolf who had idolized him, but this point could have been made in one short statement. Did they bother to showcase how great he was in his prime (or could still be when sober)? No, because this movie wasn't about Son House (although I wondered at one point and had to check the title on the box). The juke footage was shot within a few years of the Son House footage that Yazoo Records released in their "Masters Of The Country Blues" series. It's a wonderful performance. Even though he was old and things weren't working the way they had 30 years earlier, there was still a lot of power and passion in the performances and a quiet dignity in the man. It's just too bad that the producer (Joe Lauro) and director (Don McGlynn) of the Wolf documentary seemed determined not to leave him any. Aside from that, it was an ok film. Hubert Sumlin's spots were entertaining as well as the interviews with Hubert's ex and Wolf's stepdaughters. I would like to rate this DVD higher, but if you want a great story, read the book. As a biography this movie only touches on spots and leaves so much out. If you want to see the best Wolf footage, you'll only see some of it here."