Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Muddy Waters - The Definitive Collection

While I’ve been a fan of the blues since I discovered that my 60’s heroes stole some of their best licks (and their best songs!) from bluesmen, I must (shamefacedly) admit that my blues record collection has never been up to par. My limited finances always meant that I would feed my r’n’r jones before indulging in these legends. I am now trying to make up for that!

One of the best collections that I’ve picked up recently is Muddy Waters – the Definitive Collection. This is simply incredible from beginning to end!

Of course, Muddy is a legend and rightfully so and of course, I have owned some Muddy records in the past, but this is a pretty exceptional compilation. Starting with “I Can’t Be Satisfied”, this record shows his evolution which mirrored (and essentially started) what is now known as the Chicago Blues sounds.

While he apparently worked with and without bands throughout his career, his recordings started as stripped down swamp blues – just him on his original sounding slide guitar and vocals and “Big” Crawford on bass. These tunes, while sparse, are still mighty intense, but my fave items are when he adds the spectacular Little Walter on harmonica and brings in a full line up.

Willie Dixon plays bass on many of these songs and his sound and his songwriting is a large part of Muddy’s mythos. “(I’m Your) Hoochie Coochie Man”, “I Just Want To Make Love to You”, “I’m Ready”, “Don’t Go No Further”, “You Shook Me” and “The Same Thing” are just some of the most famous and most covered tunes on this CD by Dixon that Waters is most immediately identified with. These are all true classics and the versions here really are “definitive”! As much as I love some r’n’r versions of these songs, Muddy really puts his all into these, and “…Make Love…”, “You Shook Me” and “The Same Thing” are so overtly sensual – especially with Dixon’s prominent stand up bass tone – that nothing can really compare.

Of course Waters has plenty of his own tunes here, as well, and the musicians he gathered are always stellar. I believe this is one of the best music collections I’ve ever heard – definitely get it!