RECORDS / New Releases

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The Independent Culture
Howlin' Wolf: The Genuine Article (MCA, CD/tape). If a more visceral and downright scary record than this superb 25-track compilation comes out this year, it will be a great surprise. Born in Mississippi in 1910, and originally baptised Chester Burnett, Howlin' Wolf was larger than life in every way - right down to his feet, which were 16 inches long. He was in his forties by the time he got a proper recording contract, but Sun Records boss Sam Phillips thought he was better than Elvis - listening to the truly demonic 'Evil (is Going On)' and the utterly salacious 'Wang Dang Doodle', it is not hard to hear why. His voice - an unearthly guttural rumble, a vengeful growl and a carnal wheeze - still chills souls at 30 paces, and Mick Jagger, Tom Waits, Captain Beefheart and Jim Morrison would all have been lost without it. Truly a wolf in wolf's clothing. Ben Thompson

J J Cale: Closer to You (Delabel, CD/ tape). Cranking out those minimal Okie ballads in a muffled whisper, occasionally dropping in a guitar solo of inspired simplicity, Cale deals his eleventh recording in 21 years. But does anyone with Naturally and Really - his first two albums, which had all the good songs - really need another helping? Richard Williams

The Evolution of Mann: The Herbie Mann Anthology (Rhino/Atlantic Jazz Gallery, CD). Though the travels of Mann and his flute through exotic musical cultures for a series of Atlantic albums of the Sixties and Seventies tended to sound rather ersatz at the time, he's now acclaimed (at least by the liner notes here) as jazz's first post-modernist. While the jury is still out on that one, the evidence on these two discs includes some powerful African and Latin grooves that generally sound better the earlier the recording date. Using regular New York session- men alongside a rhythm section composed of expatriate percussionists, Mann got to samba and high-life rhythms before most of the opposition. On a marvellous version of 'One Note Samba' recorded in Rio in 1963, the young Antonio Carlos Jobim sings the vocal as though he had learnt English exclusively from Sinatra records. Two tracks featuring the Bill Evans trio and some deep soul tunes from Muscle Shoals and Memphis also make this collection - one of a number of beautifully produced Atlantic reissues - worth having. Phil Johnson