The Germans have had a long held fondness for blues--almost all the black sixties/seventies American Folk Blues Festival tours that played in England and Nordic countries found avid audiences in Germany as well. So it's not really a surprise that enough footage of Muddy Waters was found to make up a 54 minute video--but it is somewhat sobering to realize that archive footage
this old just doesn't exist in the USA or in England, where the BBC dumped much of their old tapes years ago.
The good news is that the 12 songs included here are all in good technical shape, the sad news is that most come from the latter stages of Muddys career, when both his band members and his energy weren't quite what they used to be. The two oldest numbers come from a 1968 appearance, which does include Otis Spann on piano and the first white player Muddy hired, Paul Oscher on harp. Shot in black and white, the musicians gold neckchains call to mind the psychedelic times, as does Muddys rather over-done tremolo slide guitar playing on "Long Distance Call". On both that tune and "Got My Mojo Working" Oscher, though playing well, is continually bobbing and weaving, it gets distracting--especially when compared to Waters regal, buddha-like style. On these shots the band is standing up, in subsequent performances they're seated.
Muddy plays rhythm guitar on most tracks and lead slide on 4 of them, using a flashy red telecaster on the later dates. The 1974 band includes Carey Bell on harp and shows Muddy sporting a gravity defying bubble-top afro. These two tracks come from an in-studio effort sans audience, still Muddy works up some driving energy on "Blow Wind Blow" and "Honey Bee". The remaining 8 tunes come from a concert appearance at Rockpalast in 1978, and they show Muddy's magnetism and skill in working a crowd. Muddy abandons his guitar for "Mannish Boy"--his remake of Bo Diddleys "Im A Man"--and at the end prowls the stage, preaching-style, as he jumps up and down,
bemoaning the fact that "another mule is kicking in your stall". His falsetto is sweet and true here, and shows a vestige of the strong sexual attraction Waters exuded in the fifties--all those ladies weren't just there to hear the band.
Some of the numbers include "Caldonia", where Muddy trades vocals with pianist Pinetop Perkins, Little Walters "Everything Gonna Be Alright" where Muddy passes on the vocal to a guitarist he calls Junior, "They Call Me Muddy Waters", with Jerry Portnoy using acoustic harp, and old faves like "Baby Please Don't Go" and "Walking Through The Park".
Though this isn't prime time Muddy, its about as good as it gets, and improves a lot over the 1980's performance documented on Yazoo's MAINTENANCE SHOP BLUES video, and is almost as good as Vastapols IN CONCERT 1971 tape. Lets face it--although his later bands didn't quite measure up, and Muddy was no longer the young lion of yore--there really isn't any bad Muddy
Waters to be seen. The man is an undisputed force of nature--and all glimpses are welcome.
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