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Friday, 16 April 2021

"Muddy, Brass And The Blues/Can't Get No Grindin'" by MUDDY WATERS – October 1966 US LP on Chess in Mono (January 1967 in the UK) with September 1973 US LP on Chess in Stereo (January 1974 in the UK) – Featuring James Cotton (Harmonica), Otis Spann and Pinetop Perkins (Piano), Sammy Lawhorn and Pee Wee Madison (Guitar), Calvin Jones (Bass) with Willie Smith (Drums) with Arrangements by Charles Stepney (June 2011 UK Beat Goes On Compilation – 2LPs Remastered Onto 1CD by Andrew Thompson) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...Got A Love Weapon..."

A strange and interesting combo – his genre-evolving 1966 US LP "Muddy, Brass And The Blues" (which has divided purists for years) - here slapped together with a long forgotten and criminally overlooked Rock-Blues outing from 1973 – both on the legendary Chess Records. But I think the pairing works. 

The first album on this 2LPs-onto-1CD Beat Goes On compilation (BGO of the UK) featured his core band of James Cotton (Harmonica), Otis Spann (Piano), Sammy Lawhorn and Pee Wee Madison (Guitars), Calvin Jones (Bass) and Willie Smith (Drums) with Arrangements by the mighty Charles Stepney. Originally recorded June 1966 at their famous Tel Mar Recordings Studios, Chess then brought in as many as five (unnamed) Horn Players and layered up the songs in an effort to make the great Bluesman sound more contemporary or (some suggest) ape preceding successful hybrid album-releases by say Big Joe Turner or Jimmy Witherspoon ("The Boss Of The Blues" and records like that). Some say it worked while others say it's hateful and should be put outside to sulk, hanging its ornery head in shame like the naughty schoolchild it clearly is (shades of "Electric Mud" looming in the future). 

The second LP from 1973 saw Chess replace piano-player Otis Spann (who had sadly passed) with Pinetop Perkins. "Grindin'..." was back to the Blues with a Rock and Funk tinge and featured material that stretched back to 1950 with "Sad Letter" and even further with "Mother's Bad Luck Child" which was a re-working of his first ever release in 1947 - "Gypsy Woman". Re-tooled oldies sat comfortably alongside new stuff – the whole shebang knocked out with gusto and tomato sauce by a band on fire and a leader back in control. As I say, a weird if not slyly cool combo of albums. Let's get to the meal table...

UK released June 2011 (reissued April 2012) - "Muddy, Brass And The Blues/Can't Get No Grindin'" by MUDDY WATERS on Beat Goes On BGOCD1007 (Barcode 5017261210074) offers two US LPs from 1966 and 1973 on Chess Records (issued 1967 and 1974 in the UK also on Chess) Remastered onto 1CD that plays out as follows (66:46 minutes):

1. Corine, Corina [Side 1]
2. Piney Brown Blues 
3. Black Night 
4. Trouble In Mind 
5. Going Back To Memphis 
6. Betty And Dupree [Side 2]
7. Sweet Little Angel 
8. Take My Advice
9. Trouble 
10. Hard Loser 
Tracks 1 to 10 are the album "Muddy, Brass And The Blues" – released October 1966 in the US on Chess LP-1507 and January 1967 in the UK on Chess CRL 4526 (both in Mono only). Produced by GENE BARGE and RALPH BASS

11. Can't Get No Grindin' (What's The Matter With The Meal) [Side 1]
12. Mother's Bad Luck Child 
13. Funky Butt 
14. Sad Letter 
15. Someday I'm Gonna Ketch You 
16. Love Weapon [Side 2]
17. Garbage Man 
18. After Hours 
19. Whiskey Ain't No Good 
20. Muddy Waters' Shuffle
Tracks 11 to 20 are the album "Can't Get No Grindin'" – released September 1973 in the USA on Chess CH 50023 and January 1974 in the UK on Chess 6310 129. Produced by RALPH BASS.

The outer card slipcase lends these BGO releases a sense of style and class (they've reissued a lot of Muddy, see list below) and the 8-page inlay has new May 2011 liner notes from TONY RUSSELL that do enough to inform and rightly praise the contents within. As was so typical with Chess LPs - they often sported little or no musician credits - so Russell does his research and provides player details and well as critical responses (both the Blues Unlimited and Living Blues magazines gave the 1973 a warm thumbs-up). BGO also reproduces Ralph Bass' original liner notes to 1966's "Muddy, Brass And The Blues". 

But the real beef is new ANDREW THOMPSON Remasters done at Sound Mastering in London - power and grit exuding from their pores - I love the way this CD sounds. I'll be honest and say I skip mostly to the 70ts Stereo outing where my real interest lies, but the 60ts Mono LP still kicks like a mule. To the tunes...

The moment Muddy takes on Joe Turner's "Corine, Corina" you will either think this is a mistake or a (slight) leap forward. Cotton's Harmonica solo still smashes it, but those horn-fills for sure busy up proceedings just a tad too much. "Well I been to Kansas City and everything was really alright..." he moans on "Piney Brown Blues" where Otis Spann on Piano and James Cotton on Harmonica lay down the mid-shuffle beat. At least here the brass isn't dominating but actually contributing. The very Bluesy "Black Night" is fantastic stuff - Otis Spann, Sammy Lawhorn and Pee Wee Madison and James Cotton all finally getting room to solo and shine on Piano, Guitar and Harp - crying for his baby with virtually no horns in sight. Back to the oldies with "Trouble In Mind" - a stalwart of Joe Turner's live shows - another great sounding Remaster. And on it goes...

The leap from 1966 to 1973 is huge in terms of what comes jaunting out of your speakers. Suddenly the 'Funk' is with Muddy when he sings the opener "Can't Get No Grindin'..." - a weird Clavinet groove greets you as he sings and the boys answer. More Traditional and let's face it 'down and dirty' is "Mother's Bad Luck Child" - Pinetop switching to Piano while the boys lick those slide guitar notes. Muddy goes to a gypsy woman to have his fortune told only to be advised to go back home and never darken her tent again. "Funky Butt" uses the same Clavinet groove that "Grindin'" does - a sort of Harmonica Blues shaking and shimmying as Muddy roars 'yeah!'. Better is the mean lowdown gutbucket "Sad Letter" - a real return to form as Muddy got a letter this morning to tell him that his baby has moved on to the great gates beyond. Speaking of straight-up type Blues - I have always loved the crossover "Love Weapon" where Muddy's baby don't fight like a man - she uses her love weapons - comes at you like a tiger whilst looking at you like a lion. It perfectly fuses Guitar, Harmonica and Bass whilst throwing just a slight Funk on the Clavinet keyboard (Cotton puts in a blistering Harp solo). What a racket they made when they were good. 

In the end neither album could be called a masterpiece, but the combo of the two playing alongside each other here delivers a lesser-heard Muddy - Bluesy and Cool one minute - Funky and Hip the next – and all in crisp audio glory. McKinley really was the Hard Drivin' Man...

MUDDY WATERS CD Reissues and Remasters for Beat Goes On (BGO) 
All are 2LPs Remastered onto 1CD

1. Muddy Waters At Newport/Muddy Waters Live (1960 and 1971 LPs)
1996 UK CD on Beat Goes On BGOCD314 (Barcode 5017261203144)

2. Muddy Waters Sings "Big Bill"/Folk Singer (1959 and 1964 LPs)
1998 UK CD on Beat Goes On BGOCD397 (Barcode 5017261203977)

3. The Real Folk Blues/More Real Folk Blues (1966 and 1967 LPs)
1998 UK CD on Beat Goes On BGOCD436 (Barcode 5017261204363)

4. Muddy "Mississippi" Waters Live/King Bee (1979 and 1981 LPs)
September 2004 UK CD on Beat Goes On BGOCD584 (Barcode 5017261205841)

5. They Call Me Muddy Waters/Live At Mister Kelly's (1971 for both LPs)
October 2010 UK CD on Beat Goes On BGOCD949 (Barcode 5017261209498)

6. Muddy, Brass And The Blues/Can't Get No Grindin' (1966 and 1973 LPs)
June 2011 UK CD on Beat Goes On BGOCD1007 (Barcode 5017261210074)

7. Electric Mud/After The Rain (1968 and 1969 LPs)
October 2011 UK CD on Beat Goes On BGOCD1011 (Barcode 5017261210111)

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