Thursday, May 05, 2005

Muddy Waters – King of the Electric Blues (Legacy, 1997)

This a compilation of the work Muddy Waters did for Johnny Winter's Blue Sky label after he left Chess Records in the late 1970's. Muddy and Winter took a back to basics approach with the music, avoiding a lot of the gimmicks that Chess was imposing on Waters late in his career. So what we have are some revisions of earlier Waters classics and some new tunes, and also some blistering live tracks, that prove that the old man had plenty left in the tank up until the end.

The great things about the live tracks, notably “She's Nineteen Years Old” and “Howlin' Wolf” is the chance to hear Waters' slide guitar which really sounds like no other. Combine this with his vocals which had become a epic roar at this point and it makes for a very powerful musical experience. The studio tracks are interesting as well – he can still bring the braggadocio like he used to as evidenced with remakes of “Mannish Boy” and “I'm Ready” while “No Escape from the Blues” and the bizarre “Champagne and Reefer” are some of the newer songs represented.

While this isn't the place to begin your Muddy Waters collection, this may very well be where you end up. The three original albums Waters cut for Blue Sky are still in print along with a couple of other compilations so there are a lot of choices to choose from. But if you are looking for a sampler of material from the end of his career this has a lot of good music going for it.

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