Muddy Waters

Electric Mud

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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.

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