Beware Of The Dog

Hound Dog Taylor & The Houserockers

Alligator Records, 1975

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


I still remember the day I discovered the music of Hound Dog Taylor. I had gotten my hands on the original Genuine Houserockin' Music sampler from Alligator Records, and had listened to the ten songs from other artists happily. As much as I had enjoyed these songs, once the unreleased "Don't Blame Me" kicked in, a whole new dimension opened up for me. I was hooked.

Taylor died in 1975 of cancer, just a short time before the release of his third album on Alligator - the label's seventh release and first live album - Beware Of The Dogmy_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 . While it has some rollicking moments that live up to the kind of blues that Taylor and his band The Houserockers played on a daily basis, it is a spotty release that is not always the ideal remembrance of Taylor.

Recorded in Evanston, Illinois and Cleveland, Ohio in 1974, Taylor, guitarist Brewer Phillips and drummer Ted Harvey rip through some classic material on the first half of the album. Tipping a hat to Elmore James, Taylor and crew pull out two of his songs - "The Sun Is Shining" and "Dust My Broom" - for this release, and both are performed well. (Incidentally, George Thorogood - who once was a roadie for Taylor - paid tribute to his former boss on his own Live album by including his own version of "The Sun Is Shining".) "Rock Me" sounds like it could have been delivered by B.B. King; that's how powerful Taylor's vocals are on this track.

Taylor's originals that made his debut album and Natural Boogie so special are also highlights on Beware Of The Dog. The album's opener, "Give Me Back My Wig," might not have been as powerful of an opener as I would have liked to have heard, but I'll take it anyway. "It's Allright" is always a welcome track to hear, and the instrumental "Kitchen Sink Boogie" - featuring Phillips on lead guitar - really kicks things into overdrive.

Ironically, it's two of Taylor's originals that really spoil the mood. "Let's Get Funky" is a rambling, aimless piece that doesn't seem to know where it wants to go musically. Likewise, "Freddie's Blues" is a track that just doesn't have - oh, who am I kidding, it has no urgency like the rest of the material does. It's almost mournful in its style, delivery and vocalization - and I highly doubt this is what Taylor would have wanted as the last song released prior to his death. (Taylor helped to plan this album, even though it was released after his death.)

Although Beware Of The Dog has some moments that leave no doubt as to why Hound Dog Taylor and the Houserockers became a legend in the first part of the '70s, it is an incomplete portrait of Taylor in concert.

Rating: C+

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© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Alligator Records, and is used for informational purposes only.