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Album: Howlin' Wolf, Smokestack Lightning: The Chess Masters 1951-1960 (Universal)

Greatness is notoriously difficult to define, but it's easy to demonstrate.

Here it is. The Wolf, recorded by Chess throughout the 1950s in Chicago and Memphis, in a transport of vulpine hunger, including the greatest recording ever made: the title track. You get four CDs, tasteful packaging and essays and documentation, and probably more music than you really need. But proof, if any were needed, that righteous inspiration goes an awfully long way even in minute quantities.