Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Muddy Waters - Hard Again

In the 70's, Johnny Winters' manager started up Blue Sky Records for Johnny, then a rock'n'roll superstar, and Johnny decide he wanted to release other music as well, and saw this as a way to help his friend and mentor, Muddy Waters. Muddy's career had faltered for years at this time, due to Chess not knowing how to properly package and promote the blues superstar. Winters' connection to this project - he produced and played guitar - made sure that many r'n'r kids heard Muddy for the first time and restarted his career.

Here Johnny and Muddy teamed up with members of Muddy's touring band - Bob Margolin (guitar), Pinetop Perkins (the legendary piano pounder), James Cotton (also legendary harpist), Charles Calmese on bass and Willie "Big Eyes" Smith on drums - and got the gang to play live in the studio - as things were done in the old days. Obviously, this worked well, as the album sounds amazing, was a huge hit, garnered plenty of critical acclaim and even won a Grammy - not bad for an "aging" bluesman!

The set list is pretty damn terrific, too, opening with Muddy's (by way of Bo Diddley) calling card "Mannish Boy" and running through "Bus Driver", "I Want to Be Loved" (the Stones covered this early on thanks to Muddy's original version), "Jealous Hearted Man" (Cotton is smokin' here), an acoustic "I Can't Be Satisfied" (updating his first Chess release with Johnny playing Muddy's original lines), his "The Blues Had a Baby and They Named It Rock and Roll" (not my fave, but solid), a slow, stompin' "Deep Down in Florida", the superb groove of the lewd "Crosseyed Cat", and the vinyl closed with the smoldering "Little Girl", though this reissue CD includes one more, the previously unreleased "Walking Through the Park'.

Margolin provides extensive liner notes in the booklet - as he does on the other "comeback" reissues - and explains how Muddy named the album - it sounded so good to him that it "made my little pee-pee hard again"! The Chess originals are absolutely essential, but this is a fine rockin' remake with some excellent playing.