Saturday, July 25, 2009

Muddy Waters - The Woodstock Album (Chess, 1975)

During the end of his tenure with Chess records, the label tried putting the great guitarist and singer in a number of different musical situations (playing with rock musicians, employing funky horns) with limited success. Someone then had a brainwave - lets put him in a comfortable studio with fellow musicians that respect and admire him and record some tunes that were road tested and thoughtfully chosen. Those respectful admirers included Garth Hudson and Levon Helm of The Band, harmonica master Paul Butterfield, as well as pianist Pinetop Perkins and guitarist Bob Margolin from Muddy's touring band The result was one of the more consistently good LP's of Muddy's late career - no, it won't make you forget the classics of the 1950's, but it will make you realize that he remained a protean force in the music for quite a while after his initial glory days. Muddy's funky strut enlivens the swaggering "Why are People Like That" and a very nice remake of Louis Jordan's "Let the Good Times Roll" with the raucous energy these rave ups deserve. Pinetop Perkins is a key figure in this album's success, he grounds the music in the deep blues with his strong playing and tosses vocal choruses and sly asides back and forth with Muddy on the excellent versions of "Caldonia" and "Kansas City." The music here has the relaxed feel of a group of friends getting together to play some tunes and have fun. The great man still has a lot left in him and he sings and plays slide very well, dominating the music in a congenial and enjoyable manner. That off the cuff nature of the album is the key to it's success, and would inspire guitarist Johnny Winter to form his Blue Sky label to record Muddy in similar settings after his Chess days were over.
Woodstock Album -

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