When one talks about the career of Chicago Blues legend Chester “Howlin’ Wolf” Burnett, a few distinct time periods come to mind. The traditional acoustic flair of his early formative years, his peak years from the late-1950s to the mid-1960s, his brief and controversial foray into psychedelic music in 1969, and his electric blues return-to-form from the 1970s onward. Precious little acclaim has thus far been paid towards Howlin’ Wolf’s middle-period material.
A year before the famed bluesman’s death, Chess Records released the album Change My Way in 1975, as part of their “Chess Blues Masters Series” of albums. (Which also featured albums by contemporaries like Little Walter and Muddy Waters.) Change My Way offers an intriguing glimpse of Wolf’s growth as a musician, and development and coming into his own as an artist, collecting oft-overlooked sides from 1959 to 1963, ending just before the time when Wolf achieved widespread international success.
The lineups are constantly shifting from track to track, but feature frequent appearances from great names in blues session musicians as Buddy Guy, Willie Dixon, Jimmy Rogers, Johnny Jones, Sam Lay, and the one constant across all the tracks; Howlin’ Wolf’s longtime collaborator guitarist Hubert Sumlin. Wolf himself (and his trademark vocal rasp) is a powerful presence across the 15 songs that occupy Change My Way. A must-have for any blues enthusiast that stands proudly among the best of Howlin’ Wolf’s released material.