Muddy Waters recorded with Chess Records and their predecessors from 1946 to 1975 when the label was sold for the second time. The “sound” of those records was not pristine, but it was the blues. Severn Records has reproduced that sound with their new release. Replicating the acoustic imperfections adds authenticity to the music, but what really makes this recording sound authentic are the players.
Led by the middle aged son of the Mannish Boy himself, this group of artists has joyfully and proudly replicated the sound of times past. Mud Morganfield almost sounds like his father on vocals so much that it is almost eerie. Kim Wilson does the Little Walter work, Billy Flynn and Rusty Zinn play the Waters and Jimmy Rogers “roles,” Barrelhouse Chuck more than aptly tinkles the keys, and Steve Gomes (bass) and Robb Stupka (drums) serve well as the backline to the venerable sound of Muddy and Chess.
Muddy’s 100th birthday approaches (it probably has already passed based on most historical records) and after releasing new CDs with both Mud and the Thunderbirds it was a no-brainer to develop a Muddy Waters retrospective to celebrate 100 years of Muddy. Leaving out the most overdone songs, they choose 14 great cuts that still leave the listener with a tingling sensation that this is something that was just recorded and not something off a tape from 60 years ago.
Topping the spectacular stuff for me is “I Just Want to Make Love to You.” The tone, timing and sound is perfect. I sat back with my eyes closed and the stereo cranked up a bit and it was beautiful. Sultry, provocative, guttural– everything Muddy ever was is redelivered here. Chuck, Kim and band get things started and then Mud comes in with the hollow Chess recorded sound of Muddy; beautiful stuff!
Wilson’s harp will tear your heart out. From “Gone to Main Street” to start through “She Moves Me” to close we get to flashback to earlier times, when life was simpler and Muddy’s music defined Chicago and electric blues.
I could name why this song is fantastic and that one is outstanding with superlative after superlative, but why? Suffice it to say that they picked stuff that were not always Muddy’s chart toppers but they are songs that defined Mr. Waters and his music. It’s beautiful stuff and these guys play and sing their asses off.
Are they all just making a buck off Mud’s old man? I don’t think so. I think this music speaks to them even more than it does to most people. To Mud it’s in his DNA. Sure, there is money to be made playing his father. But it’s the music he grew up with and it was his father.
As any man who loved and respected their father knows, that man is revered and placed on a pedestal. Morganfield pays testament to that man and the other musicians offer up their homage to him and his band mates. I am sure there will be someone out there who criticizes this (I am usually a “Negative Nancy” when it comes to cover bands myself) but this stuff is so good that it makes you want to listen to it again and again.
Mud can sing like his dad. Kim can blow some mean harp like Walter. Billy and Rusty know how to play like the Father of Rock. Sunnyland Slim has been mastered by Barrelhouse Chuck. This is some cool and great stuff. Go get it and listen to it until it wears out. It’s possibly the best tribute album ever done, and certainly the best blues tribute album ever made.