At first encounter, one might be forgiven for dismissing Omar Dykes as a ‘Wolf-wannabe.” His gravelly, growly voice is indeed reminiscent of Howlin’ Wolf’s, but in Dykes’ case it’s no act. He really does sing as though he’s spent years gargling with a concoction consisting of sulphuric acid and broken glass.
Add to that a guitar tone that veers between crunchy and jaggedly distorted and the result is one dangerous sounding disc.
Recorded live in Germany, “Bamboozled” collects most of the tunes the Howlers are known for – “Muddy Springs Road,” “Monkey Land,” “Hard Times In The Land Of Plenty” – for a career retrospective of sorts, though Dykes and company sure aren’t resting on accumulated laurels here. From the first notes of set opener “Shake For Me,” all rough-edged distortion and moody menace, it’s amply apparent there’s a lot of life left in these songs, and Dykes seems determined to squeeze every last drop out.
And so we get sweaty, ferocious runs through the Howler’s catalogue, with Dyke’s heavily distorted guitar and gruff vocals ably supported by the supple, muscular rhythm section of bassist Barry Bihm and drummer John Hahn. Recording is okay, though the mikes seem placed a little far from the instruments, resulting in a somewhat muddy mix.
It’s Dykes’ show, though, and whether this disc appeals will depend largely on your tolerance for his vocals and whether or not the distorted sound of his guitar gives you goosebumps or causes you to cringe. (Taken in small doses it’s fine – to my own ears, though, a whole disc begins to grate long before the show’s over).
As a document of a Howler’s concert (one gets the impression of a soft-seater rather than a sweaty club), this will appeal to fans and may well serve quite nicely as a ‘greatest hits live’ package. Given the iffy recording, though, and the incessanty jagged edge to Dyke’s guitar tone, it’s not likely to win over any converts.
Okay, but not an essential purchase …