Thursday, April 02, 2009

Muddy Waters' Fillmore Debut Finally Available

It was a surprise to find out that Geffen Records was going to issue some previously unreleased live performances by Muddy Waters, at a time he was arguably musically at his peak. Recorded around the time Muddy recorded Muddy, Brass, & the Blues, the newly issued Authorized Bootleg/ Live Fillmore Auditorium, presents Muddy's performances (but not those by his band members) from November 4 through 6, 1966. His band at the time consisted of Luther "Georgia Snake Boy" Johnson and Sammy Lawhorn on guitars, George 'Harmonica' Smith on harmonica, Mac Arnold on bass and Francis Clay on drums. Its unusual in that Otis Spann was not with the band. Perhaps he had left Muddy at the time they went to San Francisco, but I recall seeing Muddy in the summer of 1967 or 1968, opening for Moby Grape in New York's Central Park and Spann was with the band.

Be what it may, what is important is here is the music, and this contains probably the best live Muddy Waters recordings I have heard. Especially on the six performances from November 5 that open this session, find Muddy singing with such power and authority and the band is terrific. Listening to him do Forty Days and Forty Nights and She Moves Me, is riveting. Got My Mojo Working sounds fresh and not hackneyed. From November 6, there is a terrific rendition of You Can't Lose What You Never Had and an extended rendition of Thirteen Highway. When Muddy takes out his slide, it just adds to the power of these performances. And Muddy's band members get their spots to shine, with George 'Harmonica' Smith perhaps being the most prominent here.

One might wish that some of the opening and closing songs by the members of the Muddy Waters Band had been included, although I can see for the purpose of limiting this to one disc, that would not have been feasible. To repeat myself, this is the finest Muddy Waters live recording available and is essential to all blues lovers.

I am adding today (April 4) that these three shows are available to download in full (with the band cuts included) from Wolfgang's Vault.
link to the November 5 show - There is a charge to download.

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