Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Muddy Waters - King Bee

This 1981 release was the third album in the trilogy of studio records ( Hard Again and I'm Ready - plus one live album) that Johnny Winter produced for Muddy, and the final record that Waters did before his untimely death in 1983. The man's health was deteriorating at this point, though his voice is still strong throughout, and the band was fracturing due to the lack of gigs that his illness caused. In fact, the group broke up either during or immediately after this record. Despite the tensions - which caused many of the participants to shun this album - the performances from these professionals are still top notch, even if it doesn't sound quite as "fun" as the other two from this series. But, this is the blues, after all.

The opening title track is quite the blues stomper, and the group gives solid, steady readings of "Too Young to Know", "Mean Old Frisco Blues" and "Forever Lonely". Winter fleshed out the proceedings with a couple of outtakes from Hard Again, the acoustic re-make of "I Feel Like Going Home" with Johnny doing what he does best with his slide. The enthusiasm here is palpably different from the sadness shown in the rest of the cuts. A live favorite, "Champagne & Reefer" follows, with the band - Luther "Guitar Jr." Johnson and Bob Margolin (who again provides his insider perspective on the liner notes) on guitars, Jerry Portnoy on harp, Pinetop Perkins on piano, Willie "Big Eyes" Smith on drums and the bass duties divided between Calvin Jones and Charles Calmese - all getting in some licks. Always dig hearing Waters' stinging slide, as we do on "Sad Sad Day" and the other outtake from HA is "(My Eyes) Keep Me in Trouble", which Margolin seems to think is more eccentric that I do, but maybe this is done a bit differently than they normally did. The pulsating harp does give it a slightly odd rhythm, but otherwise, it is a groovy blues. The interaction between these cats really shines on "Deep Down in Florida" and the vinyl closed with the short'n'to-the-point "No Escape From the Blues". We get two bonus tracks here, the swingin' "I Won't Go On" and the slow'n'sultry "Clouds in My Heart".

All three of these Winters-produced records are solid and well worth owning - damn fine work here!