Muddy Waters, has there even been a more perfect name for a musician.
His name stands as a great legend and the root of modern music. A brand new 40-track compilation is now attempting to place his legacy into today’s multi-platform, music-loving ears.
To even attempt to understand what this man did for music is almost unfathomable. To have the greatest band ever name themselves after one of his tracks perhaps indicates his importance. Moreover, it’s about how we hear and understand his sound in today’s music culture. Muddy’ music is timeless, haunting, immensely powerful and downright filthy. His intensity in his delivery, the smile of seduction, the loneliness of isolation and regret appears in all his music and a message that still resonates today. To think that there was a black man at that time with the confidence to say:
"Now, when I was a young boy/At the age of five/My mother said I was gonna be/The greatest man alive".
Don't understate the impact of a black man singing those sort of lyrics in 1950s America. There are now many legends in music and rightly so, however, it is certain that The Beatles, The Who, Cream, Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and of course the Rolling Stones, would not and could not have sounded as they did without Muddy. His influences didn’t stop there, more modern hip-hop artists such as Gorillaz, The Roots, Public Enemy and Cypress Hill have all cited and used his material. Not bad for a guy called Mckinley Morganfield. Just imagine if he never travelled north to Chicago from the cotton plantations of Clarksdale Mississippi. There would have been no electrifying of the Blues and therefore the huge influence that he holds over music would not exist.
A career that started in 1947 and continued up until his death captures the rise of popular music and beyond. Muddy was a superstar of his day and his first records in the early 1950s on legendary label, Chess Records. This collection is beautifully produced and the accompanying artwork brings home his impact. However, it’s always about the music and this compilation captures all his amazing early Chess Records recordings. The incredible sexual overtones of 'I Can’t be Satisfied' or 'Baby Please Don’t Go' created a huge presence. 'I’m Ready' for example, is packed with intent and a directness that has yet to be beaten. Alongside this are such tracks, as the haunting, 'My Home is the Delta' his cry to return to his home in Mississippi. A cautionary tale about leaving the south for the big smoke only to have those dreams of a new start or new life crushed and ruined. This is the story of the blues in one three minute song, such was Muddy’s power to convey the message. This is complemented by the strings of his guitar, sounding like his tears of pain. The dangers of a wandering eye and the temptation that it brings are featured in the amazing 'You Shook Me'.
There are a few tracks that also illustrate his live career. A few from his legendary performance at ‘Newport Jazz Festival’ in 1960. Although the full concert is easily available and highly recommended. A further few tracks were taken some 10 years later. They illustrate his polished showmanship and the sheer power of his legendary backing band. The giants of blues from the Mr Kelly club in Chicago at their absolute best.
He didn’t rest throughout his career and his controversial ‘Electric Mud’ album is also featured. Here we get a reworking of ‘Mannish Boy’. He initially was accused of cashing in on the white ears in the psychedelic movement of late 1960. Muddy was reported to have hated the album, but it sold. His later works are also featured here as he revived his career in the late 1970s, with three of his album winning Grammys. The power of his masculinity and his potency to enforce his intentions remained throughout his career. You are never left wondering what Muddy means.
John P Hammond once wrote that: "Muddy was a master of just the right notes. It was profound guitar playing, deep and simple... more country blues transposed to the electric guitar, the kind of playing that enhanced the lyrics, gave profundity to the words themselves."
We think it’s best to leave the last words to Muddy Waters:
"The gypsy woman told my mother// Before I was born// I got a boy-child comin'// He's gonna be a son-of-a-gun// He's gonna make pretty women's// Jump and shout// Then the world gonna know// What this all about".