Muddy "Mississippi" Waters - Live
(Epic/Legacy (2003) 86559)
2 CDs, 18 tracks, 101 minutes.
by Craig Ruskey
Review date: November 2003
"Keeping the Blues Alive Award"|
Achievement for Blues on the Internet
Presented by The Blues Foundation
There is little open to conjecture when discussing the numerous contributions of Muddy Waters and what those contributions have meant to blues, and its offspring, rock and roll. Waters set the bar higher than his predecessors in Chicago by helping to define not only a particular style of music, but also by defining a hallmark sound and the accepted lineup that later bands would follow. Muddy was at his peak in the Windy City from the late 1940s through the 1950s, but like many others, he stalled in the 1960s due to record labels concentrating on other styles of music that made more money. Waters saw a resurgence in his career by the late 1970s, but he had an upper hand when Johnny Winter took an interest in producing new recordings by Muddy, and his Hard Again LP scored big points among rockers and blues scholars by recreating a sound and style Muddy helped to define decades before. Muddy's strength is out in the open for all to hear on this (half) new 2-CD set. The first disc is a remastered look at his 1979 LP, Muddy "Mississippi" Waters - Live and the sonic upgrades are evident from the opening track, a slashing version of Mannish Boy where in the first few seconds, you hear Muddy telling his then young sideman, Bob Margolin, that "somethin's sharp." He was correct, as Margolin points out in his wonderful liner notes; Muddy knew what he should sound like and was always on top of his sidemen making sure they were riding while he drove. The remainder of disc one is a clinic in both bottleneck guitar and spot-on accompaniment from a band as everyone climbs in behind Muddy's acidic slide guitar and reckless vocals. Whether playing shuffles, slow blues, or grinding Delta rhythms, Pinetop Perkins, Jerry Portnoy, Willie "Big Eyes" Smith, Margolin, and the rest of the band play perfect foil. Disc two contains 59 minutes of previously unreleased recordings from the same tour and while Muddy might not have been the same driving force on tracks like Stormy Monday Blues and Corrina, Corrina, he was in the zone on Trouble No More, Champagne And Reefer, She Moves Me, and Mad Love (I Want You To Love Me). In addition to the bone-rattling music on these long-lost tapes (almost destroyed by the record company because they weren't generating profits), it's a pleasure to hear Muddy introducing his band in a manner perhaps a bit different than many of us remember. If there are any points to be detracted, the high suggested retail price would be the culprit, as packaging, photos, and notes by Margolin and Waters biographer Robert Gordon are masterful. All in all, highly rewarding.
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