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Blues - Released January 1, 1964 | Geffen*

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At the time of his very first recordings in 1941, Muddy Waters was not yet called Muddy Waters, and he played acoustic guitar. It wasn't his guitar since he didn't own one, but one that was lent to him by Alan Lomax, the man who discovered him deep in Mississippi when he was a farmer and an amateur musician. A few years later, Muddy Waters went up to Chicago and became the boss of electric blues, no doubt possessing many of his own guitars at that stage. However, in 1963 he went into the studio to record Folk Singer, an album with acoustic guitar. Why this unplugged turn? Was there a powercut in Chicago? Nope, it was what the market dictated. And at that time, the black public turned to soul, while the buoyant market for blues musicians became that of young white folk lovers, who confused authenticity and acoustics. Muddy Waters played the game, and played it well. This album is very well produced, with a sound makes it feel like Muddy Waters is playing in your living room… and that your living room sounds like a cathedral! Plus, he brought some buddies along, including Buddy Guy and Willie Dixon. With his majestic and solemn voice, Muddy Waters plays zen, essential, with few notes and long pauses between each one. The record demands that you don’t move, just listen. The album is hardly representative of Muddy Waters’ electric style, but it’s still one of his best. © Stéphane Deschamps/Qobuz
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Blues - Released August 27, 2021 | BMG Rights Management (UK) Ltd

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Blues - Released January 1, 1977 | Epic - Legacy

After a string of mediocre albums throughout most of the 1970s, Muddy Waters hooked up with Johnny Winter for 1977's Hard Again, a startling comeback and a gritty demonstration of the master's powers. Fronting a band that includes such luminaries as James Cotton and "Pine Top" Perkins, Waters is not only at the top of his game, but is having the time of his life while he's at it. The bits of studio chatter that close "Mannish Boy" and open "Bus Driver" show him to be relaxed and obviously excited about the proceedings. Part of this has to be because the record sounds so good. Winter has gone for an extremely bare production style, clearly aiming to capture Waters in conversation with a band in what sounds like a single studio room. This means that sometimes the songs threaten to explode in chaos as two or three musicians begin soloing simultaneously. Such messiness is actually perfect in keeping with the raw nature of this music; you simply couldn't have it any other way. There is something so incredibly gratifying about hearing Waters shout out for different soloists, about the band missing hits or messing with the tempos. Hey this isn't pop music, it's the blues, and a little dirt never hurt anybody. The unsung star of this session is drummer Willie "Big Eyes" Smith, whose deep grooves make this record come alive. The five-minute, one-chord "Mannish Boy" wouldn't be nearly as compelling as it is if it weren't for Smith's colossal pocket. Great blues from one of the dominant voices of the genre. © Daniel Gioffre /TiVo
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Blues - Released April 5, 1964 | Geffen

At the time of his very first recordings in 1941, Muddy Waters was not yet called Muddy Waters, and he played acoustic guitar. It wasn't his guitar since he didn't own one, but one that was lent to him by Alan Lomax, the man who discovered him deep in Mississippi when he was a farmer and an amateur musician. A few years later, Muddy Waters went up to Chicago and became the boss of electric blues, no doubt possessing many of his own guitars at that stage. However, in 1963 he went into the studio to record Folk Singer, an album with acoustic guitar. Why this unplugged turn? Was there a powercut in Chicago? Nope, it was what the market dictated. And at that time, the black public turned to soul, while the buoyant market for blues musicians became that of young white folk lovers, who confused authenticity and acoustics. Muddy Waters played the game, and played it well. This album is very well produced, with a sound makes it feel like Muddy Waters is playing in your living room… and that your living room sounds like a cathedral! Plus, he brought some buddies along, including Buddy Guy and Willie Dixon. With his majestic and solemn voice, Muddy Waters plays zen, essential, with few notes and long pauses between each one. The record demands that you don’t move, just listen. The album is hardly representative of Muddy Waters’ electric style, but it’s still one of his best. © Stéphane Deschamps/Qobuz
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Blues - Released October 5, 1968 | Geffen*

This album marks what could probably be considered the nadir of Muddy Waters' career, although at the time it did sell somewhere between 200,000 and 250,000 copies, a lot for Waters in those days. By 1968, Waters was no longer reaching black audiences, who were mostly listening to soul music by that time, and he also wasn't selling records to more than a relatively small cult of white blues enthusiasts. Meanwhile, the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, and Cream were selling millions of records each using licks and sometimes songs learned from Waters. Previously, in 1966, Chess Records had recorded Waters' Brass and the Blues, trying to make him sound like B.B. King, and this time Leonard Chess' son Marshall conceived Electric Mud as a way for Waters to reach out to the Rolling Stones/Hendrix/Cream audience. Recorded in May of 1968, Electric Mud features Waters in excellent vocal form, running through new versions of old songs such as "I Just Want to Make Love to You," "She's Alright," "Hoochie Coochie Man," "Mannish Boy," and "The Same Thing." But he isn't playing, and the band that is -- Phil Upchurch, Roland Faulkner, and Pete Cosey on guitars, Gene Barge on sax, Charles Stepney on organ, Louis Satterfield on bass, and Morris Jennings on the drums -- is trying awfully hard to sound like the Jimi Hendrix Experience-meets-Cream, playing really loud with lots of fuzztone and wah-wah pedal. The covers of the old songs are OK, if a little loud -- "She's Alright" starts to resemble "Voodoo Chile" more than its original, "Catfish Blues," and that's fine if you're looking for Waters to sound like Hendrix (no one has ever explained the "My Girl" fragment with which the song closes, however). The most interesting of the "new" songs is his cover of "Let's Spend the Night Together" (barely recognizable as the Stones song), which opens with the band sounding like they're in the middle section of "Sunshine of Your Love." Waters pulls this and the rest off vocally, and the album did got him some gigs playing to college audiences that otherwise might not have heard him. Ironically, he was never able to play these songs on-stage, his own band being unable to replicate their sound, and he was never comfortable with the album. It would be a few years before producers realized that the solution was to simply let Muddy be Muddy, not Jimi. © Bruce Eder /TiVo
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Blues - Released January 1, 1957 | Geffen

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Blues - Released August 28, 2001 | Geffen

There have been countless collections of Muddy Waters' classic Chess material released over the years, but Chess began to whittle down the domestic catalog toward the late '90s. The triple-disc Chess box remained in print, but they added two single-disc collections that each covered a specific period in Waters' career at Chess. Then, in 2001, MCA/Chess released The Anthology, a double-disc set that essentially contained much of those two single-disc collections, with several extra tracks, remastering and new liner notes. This still didn't correct the lack of a concise, single-disc overview with all the hits -- something that Muddy, Chuck Berry, and Howlin' Wolf all desperately need -- but if you're going to be buying two discs to get the full Muddy Waters story, you should get this instead of two separate discs, since it's simply easier. Besides this, even if it does contain a bunch of familiar material, it also contains some of the greatest music of the 20th century, and if you're not going to get the box but still want a comprehensive Muddy set, this is it. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released September 2, 2003 | Epic - Legacy

Accompanied by Johnny Winter and his band, Muddy Waters turns in an enthusiastic performance on Muddy "Mississippi" Waters Live. The set list contains most of his biggest hits, and the sound quality and performances are mostly energetic. Still, there's something faintly repetitive about this record. For one thing, there's only one song here, "Deep Down in Florida," that comes from any of Waters' recent albums. All of the others are old standards, which makes this album rather superfluous, since there are equally forceful performances of these cuts elsewhere. It doesn't help any that "Deep Down in Florida" isn't an especially noteworthy song, sounding more like a rewrite of Waters' older, better cuts. Without much in the way of new material, or anything especially notable about the performances, it sometimes comes off as little more than a set of Muddy Waters' greatest hits, with applause as the sole new ingredient. The addition of Johnny Winter is surprisingly unexceptional as well, since Winter fades into the background as much as any other bandmember. None of it is unlistenable, but it's hardly indispensable. Muddy "Mississippi" Waters Live is a nice addition to the Muddy Waters catalog, but it's not nearly as essential as his earlier work. © Victor W. Valdivia /TiVo
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Blues - Released May 20, 2016 | Justin Time Records

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Blues - Released July 9, 2012 | Mercury Studios

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Blues - Released January 1, 1960 | Geffen

Waters's tribute album to the man who gave him his start on the Chicago circuit, this stuff doesn't sound much like Broonzy so much as a virtual recasting of his songs into Muddy's electric Chicago style. Evidently the first time Waters and his band were recorded in stereo, the highlights include high voltage takes on "When I Get to Drinkin'" and "The Mopper's Blues," with some really great harp from James Cotton as an added bonus. © Cub Koda /TiVo
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Blues - Released November 15, 1960 | Geffen

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Blues - Released October 30, 2001 | Geffen

The resurgence of Chicago-based blues in the mid- to late 1960s came with an entirely new breed of icons to bear the torch. Among them was the decidedly electric Paul Butterfield Blues Band. Joining Muddy Waters (guitar/vocals) and Otis Spann (piano) on the aptly titled Fathers and Sons are three Butterfield Blues Band alumni: Michael Bloomfield (guitar), Sam Lay (drums), and leader Paul Butterfield (guitar). Further augmenting the personnel is Booker T. & the MG's Donald "Duck" Dunn (bass) and Buddy Miles (drums) -- who cameos during the live "Got My Mojo Workin'" finale. This all-star cast helps reclaim some of Waters' fire, which had been summarily doused on his previous outing Electric Mud -- a tasteless pseudo-psychedelic disaster. The poorly executed scheme had been designed to introduce Waters' music to a younger and mostly white audience. In essence, Fathers and Sons is able to accomplish with musical integrity what Electric Mud couldn't through gimmickry. Additionally, the incorporation of the younger generation of bluesmen solidified Waters' stature as one of the pre-eminent forces in Chicago blues to a decidedly fresh and underdeveloped audience. The LP is split between studio sides cut on April 21-23 and a half-hour live set. This performance, during the Super Cosmic Joy-Scout Jamboree, was documented on the evening following the final day of studio recording. The event was held at Auditorium Theater in (where else?) Chicago. Simplifying the process is Fathers and Sons set list, which consists exclusively of vintage Waters material. "Mean Disposition" and "Standin' Round Cryin'" drip with Bloomfield and Butterfield's nasty languid electric funk, and feature Waters' determined and energized vocals. On the uptempo blues/rockers "Walking Thru the Park" and "Sugar Sweet," the nimble and lyrical guitar passages meld the distance between Waters and the electric blues of Cream and Led Zeppelin. Without question, the highlight of Fathers and Sons is the live performances that are incessantly fueled by the explosive nature of the musicians on-stage as well as the audience. "Long Distance Call" and the two-part "Got My Mojo Working" are the finest pieces on the album. They likewise rate among the most complementary marriages of Chicago R&B with rock & roll. Of Muddy Waters' later recordings, it certainly got no better than the summit meeting heard on Fathers and Sons. Fans of Waters' true and natural showmanship, as well as enthusiasts of blues-based rock & roll, will find plenty to revisit. © Lindsay Planer /TiVo
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Blues - Released May 23, 2006 | Geffen

There are scores of Muddy Waters compilations out there, and while it might be overreaching a bit to call this 24-track single-disc set definitive, it is still a mighty good selection, including as it does all of Waters' major singles from Chess Records and its Aristocrat Records imprint between the years 1948 and 1964 along with a single track from 1976's Hard Again, Waters' first actual LP, which was released on the Columbia subsidiary Blue Sky and produced by Johnny Winter. All that's really missing here in order to give this set a full sweep through Waters' career is a couple of tracks from the series of field recordings Alan Lomax did with Waters in 1941 and 1942 when Muddy was still known as McKinley Morganfield, with "I Be's Troubled" being the most likely candidate, since it was the song Muddy rewrote for his first single, 1948's brilliantly intimate "I Can't Be Satisfied," the song that kicks off this set. Other obvious highlights here include 1950's "Louisiana Blues," a chunk of swampy blues that was harmonica man Little Walter's debut recording with Waters, the spooky but bright "I'm Ready" (one wonders what Waters would think of this song being used for a Viagra commercial) from 1954, and the chugging original recording of "Got My Mojo Working" from 1957. "You Shook Me" from 1962 features a Waters vocal over a basic track recorded by Earl Hooker a year earlier, yet still manages to sound edgy and immediate. "My Home Is in the Delta," an acoustic outing from 1963 featuring Buddy Guy, is a low-key and atmospheric masterpiece that could well serve as Waters' own concise autobiography. The Winter-produced cut from 1976, "Crosseyed Cat," sounds big and messy by comparison, and leaving it off this compilation would have made 1964's "You Can't Lose What You Ain't Never Had," Waters' last hit for Chess, a much more fitting final track. In the end, Waters' considerable reputation rests with his Chess sides, and deservedly so, and since all of the essential ones are here, this makes a close to ideal introduction to one of the most important voices in blues history. © Steve Leggett /TiVo
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Blues - Released January 1, 1964 | Geffen*

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At the time of his very first recordings in 1941, Muddy Waters was not yet called Muddy Waters, and he played acoustic guitar. It wasn't his guitar since he didn't own one, but one that was lent to him by Alan Lomax, the man who discovered him deep in Mississippi when he was a farmer and an amateur musician. A few years later, Muddy Waters went up to Chicago and became the boss of electric blues, no doubt possessing many of his own guitars at that stage. However, in 1963 he went into the studio to record Folk Singer, an album with acoustic guitar. Why this unplugged turn? Was there a powercut in Chicago? Nope, it was what the market dictated. And at that time, the black public turned to soul, while the buoyant market for blues musicians became that of young white folk lovers, who confused authenticity and acoustics. Muddy Waters played the game, and played it well. This album is very well produced, with a sound makes it feel like Muddy Waters is playing in your living room… and that your living room sounds like a cathedral! Plus, he brought some buddies along, including Buddy Guy and Willie Dixon. With his majestic and solemn voice, Muddy Waters plays zen, essential, with few notes and long pauses between each one. The record demands that you don’t move, just listen. The album is hardly representative of Muddy Waters’ electric style, but it’s still one of his best. © Stéphane Deschamps/Qobuz
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Blues - Released October 5, 1968 | Geffen

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Blues - Released November 7, 1989 | Geffen

The Chess Box does not contain all the great music Muddy Waters made. His talent and legacy are too large to be captured in a mere three discs, even one that spans from 1947 to 1972. This means, of course, that his legendary plantation recordings with Alan Lomax are not here, nor is his dynamic late-'70s comeback, Hard Again. But, truth be told, it doesn't feel like they're missing, since Waters' legend was built on the music that he made for Chess, and much of the greatest of that is here. Few box sets have chronicled an artist's best work as effectively as this; even the handful of rare, previously unreleased recordings sit perfectly next to the essential singles (this is particularly true of alternate takes of Fathers and Sons material). Sure, there are great Chess sides that aren't here, but those are great sides that the serious listener and aficionado need to seek out. For everybody else, this is a monumental chronicle of Waters at his best, illustrating his influence while providing rich, endlessly fascinating music. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Blues - Released May 18, 2004 | Epic - Legacy

For the middle album of his Johnny Winter-produced, late-'70s musical trilogy, blues giant Muddy Waters brought a new spirit to some familiar material. Starting with members of Waters' touring band -- pianist Pinetop Perkins, bassist Bob Margolin, and drummer Willie "Big Eyes" Smith -- Winter added underrated guitarist (and longtime Waters foil) Jimmy Rogers and extraordinary harp player Big Walter Horton to the mix. The songs recorded for I'm Ready offer a mix of new material and vintage hit singles like the title cut, the mid-'60s jewel "Screamin' and Cryin'," or the Willie Dixon-penned "I'm Your Hoochie Coochie Man." Waters and band provide these well-worn gems with a little new studio polish, but it is with the newer songs that the performers really shine. On the powerful "33 Years," Waters punctuates his tale of lost love with snaky slide guitar, assisted by Horton's wailing electric harp. "Who Do You Trust" features some of Waters' dirtiest vocals, the bluesman growling the lyrics while Winter layers his twangy slide above Horton's harp and Perkins' mournful ivories. "Rock Me" is old-school blues, Waters revisiting this classic cut for the umpteenth time as Rogers and Horton support his vocals with smoky guitar and guest player Jerry Portnoy adds some subtle but assertive electric harp to the affair. I'm Ready closes with the Sonny Boy Williamson chestnut "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl," the high-spirited Waters sounding in good form as Portnoy's harp flails away in the background. Although nearing the end of his career, Waters experienced a well-deserved artistic and commercial resurgence thanks to the three albums recorded with Winter for Blue Sky. Hard Again, I'm Ready, and King Bee all bring a harder edge to Waters' classic performances, with Winter's production heavy on the guitar and lighter on the brassy Chicago blues sound unfamiliar to the rock-oriented target audience. For new listeners trying to get a feel of what the blues is all about, I'm Ready and its bookends are the albums to start with. Once you experience a taste of Muddy Waters, you'll be ready for more. © Rev. Keith A. Gordon /TiVo
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Blues - Released August 25, 1999 | Epic - Legacy

This 1981 recording found Waters being produced by rocker Johnny Winter, who had brought Muddy back to form on the Hard Again album. Winter was smart enough to surround the great one with musicians who knew his music intimately -- regular band members like Calvin Jones, Willie "Big Eyes" Smith, Luther "Guitar Jr." Johnson, and Bob Margolin dot the lineup -- and Johnny keeps his own excesses in check on a nice brace of tunes. While most of the tunes here are recuts of older Chess material, Muddy's versions of Slim Harpo's title track and his own "Champagne & Reefer" are worth checking out. Not the place to start a Muddy Waters collection, but a good one to add to the collection after you've absorbed the classics on Chess. © Cub Koda /TiVo
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Blues - Released December 1, 2004 | Geffen

The Vol. 2 designation of this limited-edition double CD may confuse some people, who might reasonably wonder where "Vol. 1" is. Actually, "Vol. 1" was Rollin' Stone: The Golden Anniversary Collection, which came out as a regular retail release in stores and covered Muddy Waters' complete recorded output from 1947 through September of 1952. Picking up right where that release left off, this much more elaborately packaged 51-track double-CD set captures Muddy at the peak of his game, dominating the Chicago blues scene (and, almost equally so, the national blues dialogue) and bursting with understated confidence and energy -- in his playing as well as his singing -- in the early years. The set takes listeners song by song across the mid-'50s, coinciding with the arrival of rock & roll and the subtle changes the latter caused in even his music -- switching away from playing guitar and turning that responsibility over to younger musicians in the course of trying to compete in a world dominated by ever younger rock & rollers. The producers have done an impressive technical job, the sound on the individual songs being consistently clean and sharp, even if many of the early-'50s masters don't exactly lend themselves to high-resolution playback. They're also offering a large handful of alternate takes scattered throughout the two discs, illuminating Muddy and his band working through some of these pieces to get to the finished versions with which they were happy. The annotation by Mary Katherine Aldin paints a vivid picture of the participants (especially Willie Dixon) and the backgrounds to the individual sessions and songs -- her notes are appended by a very handsome color and black-and-white photo array and a full sessionography. One factor that may cause potential buyers to hesitate on this set is the cost -- as a Hip-O Select release it lists for $50, and that is steep; on the other hand, the listening will keep any serious blues fan busy for quite a while. And given the fact that Muddy Waters only recorded singles in those days -- he didn't do an actual album session until the Big Bill Broonzy tribute LP at the end of the decade -- a set like this is the logical way to absorb his work from this phase of his career. © Bruce Eder /TiVo