Friday, April 13, 2012

Muddy Waters Recordings With Johnny Winter Had His Blues Hard Again

Following up the acclaimed and award-winning reissue, Muddy ‘Mississippi’ Waters Live, Sony/Legacy recently reissued the three studio albums Johnny Winter produced by the legendary Muddy Waters, Hard Again, I’m Ready and King Bee. Recorded after Muddy had ended his affiliation with Chess Records, there is no question that these recordings were among the most vital Waters recorded since the classic recordings from the late forties to mid-sixties with which his legend was established.

Hard Again was the earliest one and it opens with Muddy reprising his Mannish Boy with Johnny shouting in support with the band hammering out the beat and Muddy singing with a virility that a twenty-five year old wishes they possessed. The backing band here includes Winter, harpist James Cotton, Pinetop Perkins, Willie ‘Big Eyes’ Smith and Calvin Jones, who help Muddy reprise I Want to Be Loved. They take Brownie McGhee’s The Blues Had a Baby and recast it into a Muddy Waters song, and then take things Deep Down in Florida. The mix of old and new set the tone for the Waters Blue Sky releases.

I’m Ready was the second release and reunited Muddy with Big Walter Horton and Jimmy Rogers from his classic bands of the fifties. The rhythm section is perhaps a touch lighter here as Walter reprises the title track, (I’m Your) Hootchie Cootchie Man, Screamin’ and Cryin’ and Rock Me, along with Good Morning Little School Girl and 33, a slow blues that is a recasting of Eddie Boyd’s 24 Hours. Its also nice to hear Winter and Bob Margolin holding things together with their playing and Winter often adding his own inspired straight guitar as well as slide playing to compliment Muddy’s.

The final album, King Bee features more authoritative performances including Slim Harpo’s I’m a King Bee (with a strong Rock Me groove). (My Eyes) Keep Me in Trouble, Sad Sad Day, and Mean Old Frisco are classic recordings refreshed here along with Champagne and Reefers, which became a Waters staple in his later years.

Johnny Winter certainly must be thanked for showing that Muddy Waters remained among the true giants of American music and these recordings certainly kept him in the public eye.

This review originally appeared in the November-December 2004 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 271) along with a review of a Johnny Winter reissue that will be posted here on Monday the 15th. Here is Muddy live with John lee Hooker as well as Johnny Winter.

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