John Mayall has always laid great store by the standard of his live performances – indeed, his late 80s renaissance, which continues today, was on the strength of recording “a gig we did in Hungary in a sports field with built-in mikes picking things up”.
This is effectively a repackaging of the second disc of Rolling With The Blues (The Second Decade 1972-1982), released by Shakedown in 2003 with an additional interview disc. Given that Howlin’ At The Moon is being advertised at budget price, and that Mayall selected the tracks personally, it’s a reasonable buy if you don’t want the whole box set. But since Mayall fans are completists, this must be aimed at the impulse purchaser.
The first four tracks, culled from the same 1980 gig, have a dated feel, with a nasty-sounding electric keyboard (played by the man himself) over-prominent. But the presence of guitarist Mick Taylor and bassist John McVie, who appear on six and four of the remaining tracks respectively, cranks things up several notches. By the time the disc ends with guitar instrumental The Stumble, recorded in Italy in 1982, you feel things have finally hit their stride. A mixed bag.