I’m back at Ground Zero at Corporate Hell today and not loving it. Therefore, I’m resigning myself to having Da Blues about it…all day. And what better way to feed Da Blues than listening to Da Blues, beginning with the ‘The Super Super Blues Band‘ album featuring Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and Bo Diddley.
Unfortunately, as it turns out, this album is more of a “super super blues bust”.
Power trios, of course, were hip in the late ’60s – even at down-home Chess Studios, where ad hoc “supergroups” were assembled for 1967’s ‘Super Blues‘ and this, its sequel, ‘Super Super Blues Band‘.
No one ever accused Chess Records of being subtle.
The band on this album included two-thirds of the original Super Blues headliners – Muddy Waters and Bo Diddley – with Howlin’ Wolf replacing Little Walter to round out the trio. Unlike Walter, who was willing to cede the spotlight to Diddley and Waters on ‘Super Blues‘, Wolf adamantly refuses to back down from his rivals, resulting in a flood of contentious studio banter that turns out to be more entertaining than the otherwise unmemorable music from this stylistic train wreck.
In fact, often it’s painful.
This utterly forgettable album might as well feature must-have classics like ‘Bo Diddley Stubbing His Toe On A Wah-Wah Pedal‘ and ‘Extremely Annoying Female Backup Group Seemingly Made Up Of Banshees‘. Everything tends to be chaotic and obviously under-rehearsed, and Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf are clearly uncomfortable trying to sing songs they aren’t familiar with. Furthermore, although they duke it out in earnest on the blues standards, the presence of Diddley (and his rave-up repertoire) makes the prospect of an ensemble impossible; in the end, there are just too many clashing ingredients (the squealing “girlie” choruses vs. Wolf’s growl, Diddley’s space guitar antics vs. Waters’ uncompromising slide guitar) to make the mix digestible. Meanwhile, as the three front men struggle to out duel each other on every song, they drown out an underused, all-star backing band made up of Otis Spann on piano, Hubert Sumlin on guitar, Buddy Guy on bass, and Clifton James on drums.
At least it sounds like they had fun doing it.