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Muddy Waters - Electric Mud (Cadet/Chess, 1968)

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Released under the direction of the young second generation Chess Records producer Marshall Chess on the Cadet imprint, this album was designed to help the great bluesman Muddy Waters connect with the young, white audiences that were flocking to the psychedelic ballrooms like the Fillmore and Winterland in the late 1960's. Apparently is was a successful venture, purportedly selling in the neighborhood of 150,000 copies. Whom it was not popular with was the blues cognoscenti of the era. They found the psychedelic rock trappings and over-driven guitars as a pandering sell-out. But with fresh ears, it is easy to discover a lot of merit to this album. Muddy Waters plays a setlist of some his best known songs and one pop music cover, and he is singing as well as he ever had, albeit over the loudest group he had ever fronted. The power, braggadocio and sheer vitality of his voice and very presence lends credence to this project. While the musical backdrop was certainly different, Muddy Waters was no stranger to loud guitars and strong drumming, but the wild squalls of guitarist Pete Cosey (soon to become famous in Miles Davis' electric bands) and the busy arrangements do take some of the subtlety out of the music. But overall, it was a successful experiment and showed that Waters' music was adaptable to changing times and musical styles. The 1996 re-issue also has a lengthy liner essay and some fascinating photos of Muddy at the barbershop!

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This story appears courtesy of Music and More by Tim Niland.
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