Monday, March 07, 2005

Muddy Waters & Howlin’ Wolf - Muddy & the Wolf (Chess, 1974)

It would have been a heck of a thing if these two actually recorded together, but actually this record is made up of two sessions recorded on different continents. Muddy and Wolf always kept a weary eye on each other, often accusing Willie Dixon of giving the other man the best songs! This led them to keep their distance from one another.

So what you have here is some fine late-period Chess blues from Muddy, mostly remakes but with confederates like Sam Lay and Otis Spann on hand along with some admirers like Michael Bloomfield, it makes for a pretty relaxed session. Muddy plows with grace and power through "Blow Wind Blow" and "You Can’t Lose What You Never Had" getting back to the roots of his craft and leaving some of the more forgettable late period experiments the Chess family talked him into far, far behind. Also included is a ripping live cut of "Long Distance Call" from a 1969 concert.

The Howlin’ Wolf material turns out to be castoffs from the London Sessions LP that set the Wolf up to record with British blues-rockers like Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood. All of this material has now been collected on the Complete London Sessions double CD. Wolf sounds tired and a little uncomfortable, but he still has his moments, especially on the side opening "Rockin’ Daddy." Try as they might, however, they just can’t muster enough mojo to make "Little Red Rooster" and "Highway 49" into anything that compares to the original versions.

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