Omar & the Howlers – The Essential Collection
Omar and The Howlers
Too much of a good thing?
A couple of years ago, a friend made me a ‘Best of’ Omar & the Howlers to play in the car and I played it non-stop for a couple of weeks until I got bored with it. As you do, I put it in the back of the CD box and it’s not appeared since, although a track or two do still pop up on my MP3 player.
With those couple of weeks in mind, I was quite excited at the prospect of listening to this double album; but, I have to say that the official album isn’t nearly as good as the one my friend created. First of all, his had a dozen tracks on it and the ESSENTIAL COLLECTION has 30 tracks spread over two CDs and therein lies the problem – too many songs that all sound the same.
Omar has just the type of grizzled voice I normally love. I can definitely hear the Bo Diddley/Howlin Wolf influence throughout both albums but, halfway through, I also found myself thinking that this could have been a solo effort from AC/DC’s singer Brian Johnson as their voices are almost identical on the louder up-tempo songs and that’s not meant as a compliment.
Secondly the bizarre mixture of live and studio tracks is just plain annoying. Perhaps one album could have been all ‘live’ and the other all ‘studio’ – but that just may be my over-sensitive ears.
As I’d hoped and expected, there are some very good songs here – You Made Me Laugh, Mississippi Hoodoo Man and their biggest hit to date Hard Times in the Land of Plenty all go to show why Omar and the Howlers stopped being ‘just a bar band’ many years ago. But, the classiest track, Jimmy Reed Highway – which features a duet with Lou Ann Barton and Jimmie Vaughan from the Fabulous Thunderbirds – goes to show ‘what might have been’ with some judicial editing.
All in all, the ESSENTIAL COLLECTION is fine but I can’t imagine many people listening to both albums in one sitting.