Muddy Waters and more...

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Muddy Waters and more...

Postby b dub » Wed Dec 22, 2004 7:34 pm

Muddy Waters
Hard Again / I'm Ready / King Bee
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Essential. Perhaps it's a lopsided view some have for artists of this caliber (granted, that's a somewhat small list), but if amplified, Post-war blues gets much better than this, you'd be hard-pressed to prove it. Muddy Waters began his professional career rather quietly in the early 1940s when he recorded for the Library Of Congress, but after moving to Chicago some time later, McKinley Morganfield became anything but quiet. Cutting records for Aristocrat and Chess, as well as guesting occasionally with friends like Baby Face Leroy Foster (where his slide guitar work was so recognizable it landed him in hot water with the Chess brothers) and playing behind labelmates like Little Walter and Jimmy Rogers, Muddy made a consistent racket and his records literally changed music history. Waters stayed with the Chess brothers' operation for better than two decades, but after a few disastrous recording sessions concocted by Marshall Chess (son and nephew to the label owners), Muddy's star was on a descent into near oblivion, as was blues in the early 1970s. Enter Johnny Winter who had opened shows for Waters some years before at the Vulcan Gas Company in Texas... by the early 70s, Winter was a major figure on the rock arena circuit and approached Muddy with the idea of producing some new recordings in an effort to put the blues giant back on the map.

By October of 1976 all the details had been pretty well ironed out and Muddy returned to recording with Winter at the helm as producer. Hard Again was issued in 1977 with Muddy backed by a rock solid outfit consisting of James Cotton's harmonica, Pinetop Perkins' piano, Charles Calmese on bass, and Willie "Big Eyes" Smith anchoring the band with his drumming, while Muddy's vocals and guitar were ably assisted by Bob Margolin and Johnny Winter. There was little doubt by the time the LP hit the streets that Muddy Waters was back and fully satisfied, and the story goes that he was so overjoyed with his band, his producer, and with the recordings they had laid down, that Muddy was quoted as saying "It makes my little pee pee hard again." And even though it's now more than twenty years after Muddy's death, the music he recorded with Johnny Winter and others is still hard and fully erect. By remastering Muddy's later recordings, he and his band now sound better than ever, and the bonus tracks are magnificent. For those who have yet to hear any of this material, you owe it to yourself to acquire these recordings and sit in awe as you listen to a man in his middle-and-later sixties sound as young as he did more than two decades prior when he was tearing up Chicago.

Hard Again consists of its original nine tracks (each one remarkable) plus a storming version of Walking Through The Park and logs in at 50 minutes of playing time. Just as strong as its predecessor, I'm Ready was recorded in the Fall of 1977, and retained the assistance of Perkins, Smith, and Winter, but replaced James Cotton's harp with stellar work from Big Walter Horton and Jerry Portnoy while Margolin took over bass chores. Jimmy Rogers supported his old bandleader on second guitar for this session, and bonus tracks included on the newly remastered version are a smoldering No Escape From The Blues, a shuffling Lonely Man Blues, and That's Alright, an old Jimmy Rogers chestnut with Rogers taking the vocal as Muddy adds encouragment. Playing time for this second newly-remastered Muddy disc is a sturdy 56 minutes from start to finish. King Bee, the third installment, was waxed in the Spring of 1980 and saw a few more band changes; Jimmy Rogers and Big Walter were gone this time while Muddy and Johnny Winter's guitars were supported by Margolin's again, and added more six-string work from Luther "Guitar Jr." Johnson, as Calvin Jones took over bass duties. Logging in at 52 minutes, the bonus cuts are a drilling I Won't Go Down and the booming drag of a seven minute-plus Clouds In My Heart, however, Feel Like Going Home and My Eyes Keep Me In Trouble were recorded prior to the May 1980 sessions, and fleshed out King Bee.

Remastering this material has certainly proven a worthwhile effort as the music has far more punch and ambience now, and by adding additional songs not on the earlier releases, we're given an opportunity to hear songs that were surely worthy of issue years ago, and while some may bemoan the fact that Sony didn't put out a new disc of only the previously unreleased cuts, the remastering is just as much an added attraction as the newer cuts are. There's little more to say other than the fact that these superb reissues should replace older versions, and for anyone who never had their ears bent by Muddy Waters, now is the time. This is full-blown, heavily amplified blues with a few brilliant acoustic selections that recall Muddy's earlier years, and it's all essential and masterful material by a man who will forever be regarded by many as Chicago's King Of The Blues.

Sunnyland Slim
Highway 61 - Blues Piano Legend
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18 tracks, 49 minutes. Highly recommended. Having played piano from about the age of ten right up until he died in 1995, Sunnyland Slim was born Albert Luandrew in Vance, MS, in either 1906 or 1907, and due to his tireless energy of helping others, as well as promoting himself, he landed on a dazzling array of recordings in the Post-war years. This Fuel compilation gathers sides from 1951 to 1955 for the JOB and Cobra labels, and features a wealth of great artists in support; Moody Jones, J.T. Brown, Big Walter Horton, and Robert Lockwood Jr. among others. Kicking off with three tracks from a 1953 JOB session, Slim pounds the piano keys on When I Was Young, Bassology, and Worried About My Baby as Moody Jones pushes things along on upright bass while J.T. Brown unleashes some fine tenor sax. From a February 1951 date (again for JOB) are Down Home Child, Sunnyland Special, Mary Lee and more with Jones again providing bass with Alfred "Fat Man" Wallace drumming, but the standout on these tracks could well be Robert Lockwood Jr. handing in a clinic on guitar with deft rhythm work and crunching leads. For a Cobra date in 1956, Sunnyland's booming voice and formidable piano talents were joined by Jimmy Rogers and Poor Bob Woodfork on guitars, and Big Walter's thick harmonica flourishes on Highway 61 and It's You Baby. In addition to these Cobra sides are three previously unissued alternate takes of Highway 61 (showing how the song progressed to its final issued take) and a brief snippet of Slim playing Blues unaccompanied. While there are still additional tracks from Sunnyland Slim laying in a vault or two, Fuel gets high marks for this superlative disc from a man who helped Muddy Waters land his recording contract with the Chess brothers. Sound quality throughout is generally excellent although a couple of tracks do suffer, as is often the case, sub-standard copies are all that are available. Bill Dahl's liner notes are up to their usual informative standard, however, there are still gripes from collectors who would prefer separate session details listing all known sidemen - this reviewer included. The Fuel website has a good selection of blues recordings, but this disc (among others) is hard to locate in their on-line catalog.

Various Artists
Windy City Blues
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17 tracks, 60 minutes. Highly recommended. As discussions continue on as to what state of affairs blues is in currently, and whether blues is actually blues anymore, we're more than occasionally blessed with recordings from the past that have an ability to leave us speechless. Such is the case with Windy City Blues which is comprised of material from Homesick James, Sunnyland Slim, Billy Boy Arnold, Willie Dixon, and some absolutely astounding cuts from Albert King that remained unissued for far too long. The meat of the disc comes from sessions recorded for Prestige/Bluesville with a few previously unreleased alternate takes from Homesick James tracked in 1964 (Gotta Move/The Cloud Is Crying/Homesick's Shuffle), all with Lafayette Leake, Eddie Taylor, and Clifton James in support to Homesick's careening guitar work. Sunnyland Slim and his piano are featured on three cuts from 1960 (The Devil Is A Busy Man/Every Time I Get To Drinking/Tired Of You Clowning) with assistance from King Curtis on sax and a rhythm section, and Billy Boy Arnold gets three as well (Two Drinks Of Wine/Playing With The Blues/Billy Boy's Blues) with help from Mighty Joe Young, Lafayette Leake, Jerome Arnold, and Junior Blackmon, all from a 1963 recording date. The pair of Willie Dixon cuts (Move Me/That's My Baby) date from the Winter of 1959 with able help from Harold Ashby, Wally Richardson, Memphis Slim, and Gus Johnson, while the Otis Spann and James Cotton tracks (respectively Must Have Been The Devil/Dust My Broom - from 1964) feature each artist taking the vocal microphone backed by Pee Wee Madison, Milton Rector, and S.P. Leary, with more help from a (then) mysterious "Dirty Rivers" on guitar - the alias referred to Muddy Waters as the Chess label didn't want Muddy's name appearing on albums by any competition - even if they were based in Englewood, New Jersey. The four Albert King titles were tracked in Chicago in the Spring of 1970 with Willie Dixon producing a session that included Phil Upchurch on bass, Matt Murphy and Mighty Joe Young on guitars, Lafayette Leake at the piano, and Morris Jennings behind the drums. For anyone who considers themselves fans of ringing electric guitar, Albert King should be near (or at) the top of the list, and he doesn't disappoint here. A five-and-a-half minute The Lovin'est Woman In Town kicks off the disc with King's guitar well to the fore and a pair of 24-bar solos that boggle the mind. Sure, most of us have heard Albert King's work before, but for this recording date, King himself seemed to have something to prove as he rips clusters of distorted notes from his axe (and obviously working hard as he yells encouragment to himself), and in a style that recalls his finest work, but this just may be Albert King's finest ever. In addition to his own Lovin'est Woman, he also cut the staggering Put It All In There, Need More Mamma, and Love Me To Death (all written by Willie Dixon). As Lee Hildebrand points out in his detailed liner notes, the superb quality of these four tracks continue a mystery as to why the Stax label didn't put up the necessary money and time for a full album. Amazing stuff, this is. ... =211368913

Classic Blues Artwork From The 1920s
2005 Calendar

Much like last years' calendar from John Tefteller at Blues Images, the 2005 edition is chock-full of incredible artwork from the Paramount archives. Featured in the month-to-month pages are Skip James, Son House, Ma Rainey, Papa Charlie Jackson, Ed Bell, The Mississippi Sheiks, Charley Patton, J.D. (or Jaydee) Short, Blind Blake, Ida Cox, the Beale Street Sheiks, and Blind Lemon Jefferson. One brief warning should be included in this review that Tefteller mentions in his preface; "These newly discovered images are of supreme quality. They have been touched up a bit and even slightly altered for this calendar to make them even more striking." For those unsure of what's been altered, the cover and the month of February belong to Son House, an artist whose photograph from the Pre-war years has never been located. While it's possible (and even likely) that the cover art showing four women petting and eyeing Son was intended as a promotional item for his recording of My Black Mama, superimposing a photo of Son from the 1960s does look a bit cheesy and more than slightly altered. However, most everything else is indeed striking, and at times, even comical as in the display for the Mississippi Sheiks' Sitting On Top Of The World where the words SUPER ELECTRICAL RECORDINGS are clearly visible. Anyone with a penchant for Pre-war blues should know that Paramount's recordings were anything but super, due to inferior equipment and a decidely less-expensive method of using poor materials to press their records (sawdust was probably NOT an effective ingredient in record-pressing). The accompanying 16-track CD has all the tracks that are featured in the calendar pages, as well as four recently discovered cuts by King Solomon Hill, Blind Joe Reynolds, and the Memphis Jug Band. All in all, another super job from John Tefteller.

© 2004 by Craig Ruskey
b dub
Posts: 10
Joined: Thu Jan 01, 1970 12:00 am

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