Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Muddy "Mississippi" Waters Live

After the success of Muddy Waters' Johnny Winters-produced comeback album Hard Again, Winters went
on the road with the man and this document is the result of their travels. The original vinyl album was edited a bit, but here on this 2-CD set we (supposedly, at least) get the full versions of the songs along with a number of extras.

Because of Johnny's participation, a number of rock'n'rollers probably heard this giant for the first time doing his own material that had been covered by innumerable younger, white bands. Of course, the monumental "Mannish Boy" is included (with Winter singing a verse), followed by the salacious "Nineteen Years Old", where Waters' plays slide and elongates the ending with some of his classic grunts, groans and laughter. Sonny Boy Williamson's "Nine Below Zero" is solid, with some cool Pinetop Perkins keys, and Muddy is back on slide on "Streamline Woman", which is nice, as he sounds like he's having a blast and he (mostly) put aside his guitar for a number of years before this "comeback" (not that he ever went away).

Funnily enough, he has a harmonica-driven tune called "Howling Wolf" (considering his rivalry with that man) and then his groovy take on the terrific "Baby, Please Don't Go" before Disc One closes with the extended "Deep Down in Florida", where each member of his terrific band gets a chance to show off.

Disc 2 opens loosely with Pinetop plucking out a blues and introducing Muddy and then Muddy introducing the band as they slip into a medley of "After Hours/Stormy Monday Blues" (with more than a nod to T-Bone Walker in the guitar solo). A strong "Trouble No More" follows and then a crowd favorite, "Champagne and Reefer". Pinetop leads off "Corrina, Corrina", not one of my faves, but cool, though "Hootchie Kootchie Man" is always a stormer. Waters takes to the slide again for the sexy and swagggering "She Moves Me", but their "Kansas City", while nice, with some good solos, is fairly inconsequential, even with Pinetop sharing the lead vocals. Showing that Muddy wasn't afraid to share the spotlight (he probably appreciated the break), he lets his piano player do "Pinetop's Boogie Woogie", as well - a vehicle used by many others throughout the years and which lets everyone take a lead, including the legendary drummer Willie "Big Eyes" Smith.

"Mad Love" is more of Muddy's sensuous blues - he was quite the ladies' man - and "Everything's Gonna Be Alright" is a cool rocker and another method for introducing his group and then turning over the lead vocals to Luther "Guitar Jr." Johnson before ending the proceedings with a rapid-fire "Got My Mojo Working", sounding not unlike the legendary Newport Jazz Festival version.

There is a superb, full color booklet included, with copious liner notes by Muddy's long time guitarist Bob Margolin - so, full band is Jerry Portnoy on harp, Luther Johnson, Bob Margolin and, on disc one, Johnny Winter on guitars, Calvin Jones on bass, Pinetop on piano and Willie Smith on drums - quite a line-up! His early work is still my fave, but this was a great return to form and would've been a gas to witness.