cream of the crate: cd review #34 – muddy waters: the real folk blues/more real folk blues
cream of the crate: cd review #34 – muddy waters: the real folk blues/more real folk blues
CD Cover – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

  This review was originally posted on the first Toorak Times web site where publications ceased on that site in March 2017. The old site will be permanently closed in 2020 and these reviews are being re-published in order to preserve them on the current Toorak Times/Tagg site.

 

 

 

"I say no one is more able or capable of putting these blues to the test around the world than Muddy Waters" - (Willie Dixon - original LP liner notes) _ "When Muddy sings, you feel the blues, and you feel the joy that goes with them." - (Paul Williams - Crawdaddy magazine)

Cream Of The Crate Reviews 1 to 50 were vinyl album reviews.  
The following fifty reviews (51 - 100) were originally marked as CD Reviews 1 - 50
and this numbering has been kept to keep consistency with the published CD reviews.

 

This is number thirty four in the series of retro-reviews of Cd albums in my collection.

The series is called,
“Cream of The Crate (CD’s)”, and they represent CD albums that I believe are of significant musical value, either because of their rarity, because they represent the best of a style or styles of music or because there is something unique about the group or the music.

This is a single CD but it actually represents two Muddy Waters vinyl LP’s. Once again it proves the incredible value of CD’s in providing easy access to wonderful music that was previously only available on vinyl, and in this case, we get two albums for the price of one!

The CD is titled “The Real Folk Blues / More Real Folk Blues” and is released on the MCA label (licensed from Chess Records), and was released in 2002. Its code is 088 112 822-2).

cream of the crate: cd review #34 – muddy waters: the real folk blues/more real folk blues
CD label – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

The album has 24 brilliant tracks from from previous two albums on vinyl titled respectively, “The Real Folk Blues” and,”More Real Folk Blues” and the music covers the period between 1947 to 1964.

My vinyl collection still has one of the companion volumes – Howling Wolf: Real Folk Blues, which was the first vinyl album I retro-reviewed as a Cream of The Crate review.

I own the Muddy Waters volume, but sadly, the cover was water damaged and couldn’t be saved. So being able to purchase it on Cd, and at the same time getting its companion volume at the same time, makes this a most excellent buy.

OK, bouquets and brickbats!

The bouquets are indeed very, very good one’s. The selection of music is excellent and is discussed in more detail below. The accompanying booklet lays somewhere between. Look it’s not terrible and has some good features.

It has some of the liner notes from the original two Lp’s, and a reasonably good synopsis of the Muddy Waters story, and, it has the full track listing including who played on what tracks.

On the other side of the coin, it has just one picture. Now that is simply not good enough.

There are obviously many pictures of Muddy and the artists accompanying him that could have been used. However, my actual brickbat is aimed at the choice of track order.

Why or why not put them in order of recording?

OK, they put them in order of the LP’s, and that would be somewhat logical, but this is an opportunity to be able to follow the development of this blues genius as the years went on, which a chronological order would have done!

cream of the crate: cd review #34 – muddy waters: the real folk blues/more real folk blues
The only plate of Muddy in the booklet – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

The story of Muddy Waters is better told elsewhere but none-the-less, a short synopsis is in order as it is the story of possible the very best all round bluesman, ever!

Muddy Waters mastered both the traditional Delta Blues style and yet, became the icon of the Chicago electric blues music, and along with Howling Wolf was largely responsible for bringing the blues to the mainstream.

Born McKinley Morganfield on April 4, 1915 his birthplace was about as steeped in the delta blues as any location could be. He was born on a south Mississippi Delta plantation settlement by the name of “Rolling Fork“.

He was born at the right time and in the right location to be exposed to the very earliest of both blues recordings, but more importantly, to be exposed to and learn directly from such delta icons as Son House.

When the notable Alan Lomax came across “Muddy” in 1941, he came across a young black man who was already becoming a legend in that region and when Lomax recorded him for the Library of Congress, it was the “push” the young Morganfield needed to head north.

cream of the crate: cd review #34 – muddy waters: the real folk blues/more real folk blues
Muddy Waters – 1941

 

But whereas his recordings as captured by Lomax were relaxed and smooth flowing, the music Muddy originally recorded for 20th century and then Columbia in Chicago simply went nowhere.

In fact even his first recordings for Chess, a label he would later become synonymous with, was as a ‘sideman’ to Sunnyland Slim.

Some five years passed and so it wasn’t until 1948 that he had his first hit – “I Can’t be Satisfied” (sadly not on this Cd).

This was an important event because it launched Muddy Waters and he was suddenly supported by and was playing with such blues luminaries as Little Walter (harp), Otis Span (piano and Jimmy Rogers (guitar).

From this point onward, Muddy ruled in Chicago.

Possibly only Howling Wolf being as popular and influential. While Muddy’s was a ten year rule by class and quality, almost ten years later in 1958 he and his popularity came to a slow but inevitable decline.

cream of the crate: cd review #34 – muddy waters: the real folk blues/more real folk blues
Muddy at the Chess mixing desk – 1964 – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

It was no fault of the Chess label, who worked hard to keep this artist who had put it on the map, viable.

The problem was with the advent of the sixties, the blues audiences in the USA were simply waning.

In a desperate attempt to move Muddy’s popularity from the blues audience to the folk audience, Chess released an acoustic album in 1964 titled “Folk Singer” – it only had limited success.

Two years went by, and undaunted, Chess gathered together a dozen of Muddy’s singles for the 1966 LP titled, The Real Folk Blues which covers the period 1947 (Gypsy Woman) to 1964 (The Same Thing).

The great thing about this album was that in fact demonstrated once and for all Muddy Waters ability to sing both the ‘folkiest’ (if that is the correct description) style and the red hottest of the urbane “Chicago” style.

A year later in 1967, the sequel or companion release hit the shelves – More Real Folk Blues.

This presented a really focused approach to Muddy’s earlier music, and concentrated on the period 1948 – 1952. What it did was to present the listener with the development of Muddy’s style from the standard ‘guitar/vocals/bass’ through to the more adventurous and exciting ‘band sound’, which started emerging in the early 1950’s.

Then the very music “revolution” of the 60’s that initially drew Muddy’s (and indeed all the blues singers/groups) audiences away.

Then suddenly it created a realisation in those audiences, that as the listened to groups like the Animals, the Stones and the Yardbirds, that the artists that wrote and originally sung the music their “new music hero’s” were playing, were indeed still alive – and suddenly the tide turned once again.

I really like the quote from Paul Williams writing in the Crawdaddy Magazine, when he said, “…. don’t let me tell you how to listen. Listening to Muddy waters is as simple as forgetting your zip code; you just relax your mind, let go of the little things and let the blues come through…”

Track Listing:
The Real Folk Blues

1. Mannish Boy 2:58
2. Screamin’ and Cryin’ 3:08
3. Just to Be With You 3:17
4. Walking Thru the Park 2:44
5. Walkin’ Blues 2:58
6. Canary Bird 2:45
7. The Same Thing 2:43
8. Gypsy Woman 2:36
9. Rollin’ & Tumblin’, Part One 3:01
10. 40 Days and Forty Nights 2:54
11. Little Geneva 2:50
12 You Can’t Lose What You Ain’t Never Had 2:55

More Real Folk Blues

13. Sad Letter Blues 3:00
14. You’re Gonna Need My Help I Said 3:05
15. Sittin’ Here and Drinkin’ (Whiskey Blues) 2:32
16. Down South Blues 2:52
17. Train Fare Home Blues 2:45
18. Kind Hearted Woman 2:33
19. Appealing Blues (Hello Little Girl) 2:47
20. Early Morning Blues 3:06
21. Too Young to Know 3:10
22. She’s Alright 2:27
23. Landlady 2:36
24. Honey Bee 3:20

cream of the crate: cd review #34 – muddy waters: the real folk blues/more real folk blues
Rear of the CD Cover – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

So, let’s listen!

It is logical to commence with the earliest recorded track on this Cd, the 1947 Gypsy Woman – track #8.

Playing with Muddy on this track were Sunnyland Slim on piano and Ernest “Big” Crawford on bass. Interestingly, there seems to be little info on Crawford, except he was playing a double bass.

No one is certain, but this picture is thought to be Ernest “Big” Crawford.

Possibly Ernest “Big” Crawford

 

As previously commented, this track is a great example of the most basic lineup short of playing solo, and it is easy to see, or rather hear, why back in 1947, Muddy caught peoples ears.

Gypsy Woman


It seemed logical to take four tracks from the Cd and have two from each of the albums represented on it. So that left me with the decision of which other track to choose.

ly I am spoiled for choice! In the end I couldn’t choose between track #1 Mannish Boy, and track #7 – The Same Thing.

The great thing about having a mind, is making it up! The other great thing is having the ability to say, why choose?

So I am presenting both.

I have to say I simply adore Mannish Boy.

Muddy’s original version of “Mannish Boy” was recorded in Chicago on May 24, 1955, under the title “Manish Boy” (note ONE ‘n’).

Accompanying Muddy Waters were Jimmy Rogers on guitar, now Wikipedia claims it’s Junior Wells on harmonica, but the liner notes of this Cd suggest it may have been either him or Little Walter – an equally accomplished, some would say better harp player.

Wikipedia claims that this, the original version, was the only recording done by Muddy Waters between January 1953 and June 1957 that did not feature Little Walter on harmonica and was one of few studio recordings with Junior Wells.

Wikipedia also claims it had Fred Below on drums, but the liner notes are clear that it was Francis Clay on drums.

Finally, Wikipedia says it had an un-identified female chorus.

Small but interesting to note that while the track is listed as recorded in May 1955, it takes on the title of Mannish Boy with the two “n’s”, associated with the various re-recorded versions in the future!

The track opens with Muddy hollering ‘Who yeah’, to the beautiful piece of guitar work by Jimmy Rogers, obviously with the tremolo turned on.

I love the liner notes description where Mark Humphrey writes, (it has)”Muddy in his vein poppin’ preacher’s voice and an enthusiastic gaggle of sisters cheering each shouted self-affirmation, this performance suggests a netherworld between church and barrelhouse, one where the supernaturally potent singer proclaims his priesthood in a ghetto fertility cult.”

 

Mannish Boy


That leaves track #7 The Same Thing!

In this track Muddy is convinced that the whole world is in constant crisis about the same thing(s). The role of the blues is many, but looking deeply into the soul of a “man” is certainly one of them and in this song Muddy is doing just that.

Accompanied by Otis Span (piano); James “Pee Wee” Madison (guitar), the mighty Willie Dixon (bass) and S.P. Leary (drums), they set a musical scene that encourages Muddy to challenge us to wonder about and think about things that we dare not say, especially (as the liner notes say), “about girls!“.


So we are left with two more tracks, two tracks from the album More Real Folk Blues. Track # 21 is Too Young To Know.

Remembering that we have moved away from the later years with the bigger lineup behind him, Muddy recorded this track in January of 1951 with Little Walter on harp and Ernest “Big” Crawford on bass.

I find it impossible to say I like the Folk/Delta Blues style of Muddy Waters over the Chicago/Electric style, or indeed vice versa.

Listen to the second style and you are picked up and driven into a world of blues power and emotion, a ride into the infinity of the emotions but driven by the power behind the blues.

Listen to the first style and you melt in the sublime class of a man singing from his soul.

cream of the crate: cd review #34 – muddy waters: the real folk blues/more real folk blues
Inside Cover – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

They both are simply superb.

So now we return to that folk/delta style and Too Young To Know is a mid-tempo hard, deep ensemble blues.

Well you know I done got it bad, boys
My mind is running down
I’m gonna pack my suitcase
and cut on out of this town
two little girls said let him leave
four little girls said yall is too young to know,
Well, So deep in love with this man,
I just can’t stand to see him go.

Muddy sings the eternal blues song about the tension and release between a man and a woman.

Little Walter plays a great harp on this track and is beautifully supported by Muddy on bottle neck guitar and Crawford on bass.

 

Too Young To Know


That leaves me with one track.

Honestly it could have been any track but the final track, #24 Honey Bee is my chosen one. 

It is another track that takes me back so strongly to circa 1965 when as a young musician “discovering” the blues, I was totally immersed in both Muddy Waters and Howling Wolf – and so that track gets the nod.

This track keeps us in the early 1950’s, 1951 to be precise.

The track features Ernest “Big” Crawford on bass and, Little Walter on second guitar. Yes, the well know harp virtuoso actually played guitar!

This track is seeped in the interplay between Muddy and Little Walter, and is to my knowledge, the only Muddy Waters track that Little Walter played guitar on.

Sail on, sail on my little honey bee, sail on
Sail on, sail on my little honey bee, sail on
You gonna keep on sailing till you lose your happy home

Sail on, sail on my little honey bee, sail on
Sail on, sail on my little honey bee, sail on
I don’t mind you sailing, but please don’t sail so long

All right little honey bee

I hear a lotta buzzing, sound like my little honey bee
I hear a lotta buzzing, sound like my little honey bee
She been all around the world making honey
But now she is coming back home to me


So in conclusion what we have is a CD that reflects two of Muddy Waters finest vinyl releases, Real Folk Blues and More Real Folk Blues.

It by no means reflects the best of Muddy Waters, because the great man released twenty studio and live albums, and twenty three compilation albums, of which the two mentioned in this review are among them.

How to you decide the “best”?

He was not just prolific in terms or recordings, he showed over and over and over again, that he was really without peer.

cream of the crate: cd review #34 – muddy waters: the real folk blues/more real folk blues
Muddy Waters Kirk West/Getty Images – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

This CD most certainly gives a fantastic snapshot of his music across his best recording periods.

In 1982, declining health dramatically curtailed Muddy’s performance schedule. His last public performance took place when he sat in with Eric Clapton’s band at a Clapton concert in Florida in autumn of 1982.

Sadly he passed away not long after on April 30th 1983. Although quoted many times, it is worthy to recall what the great John Hammond said after hearing Muddy had passed away.

Muddy was a master of just the right notes“.

The Cd is readily available and can be bought for around $15 – $20.00. The vinyl albums are a little over twice the price.


VIDEOS:

The following videos of live performances by Muddy Waters were found on Youtube.

“Got My Mojo Working” – Muddy Waters at the Newport Jazz Festival (1960)

 

“Long Distance Call”

 

Hoochie Coochie Man

 


Previous Cream of The Crate Albums:

 

To view/listen the first 50 vinyl album reviews just click the image below –

cream of the crate cd review #2 : robert johnson – the complete recordings

 

Click to open the following CD reviews:

#1. The Fugs: The Fugs First Album

#2. Robert Johnson – The Complete Recordings

#3. Bob Dylan – Biograph

#4. Robin Trower – Essential

#5. Various Artists – Sixties Down Under Compilation

#6. Various Artists – The Big Ol’ Box of New Orleans

#7. Hugh Masekela – African Breeze: 80’s

#8. The Last Poets – The Very Best of the Last Poets

#9. Sister Rosetta Tharpe – Down By The Riversiide

#10. Various Artists – Sixties Down Under: Vol. 2

#11. The Beatles – On Air: Live at BBC Vol.2

#12. The Rolling Stones – Singles Collection: The London Years

#13. Compilation: Girl Groups Of The Sixties

#14. The Byrds – There Is A Season [Boxed Set]

#15. Various Artists – Sixties Down Under: Volume 4

#16. Howling Wolf – The London Sessions

#17. The Who – Thirty Years of Maximum R&B

#18. Thomas Dolby – Hyperactive

#19. Various Artists – Love Is the Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965 – 1970

#20. Various Artists: 60’s Down Under – Volume 4

#21. 2nu – Ponderous

#22. The Great Eric Clapton and The Yardbirds [Boxed Set]

#23. The Sue Records Story: New York City – The Sound of Soul

#24. Various Artists – The Encyclopedia of Boogie Woogie

#25. Cam-Pact – Psychedelic Pop ‘n Soul: 1967 – 1969

#26. The Clash – The Singles

#27. Arthur Brown – Fire: The Story of Arthur Brown

#28. Various Artists – Red Hot & Blue: Col Porter Tribute

#29. Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros – Global a Go Go

#30 – Jeff St John’s Copper Wine – Joint Effort

#31 – John Lee Hooker – Boogie Man

#32. Jefferson Airplane – Jefferson Airplane

#33. Various Artists – The Ultimate Guitar Survival Guide