Muddy Waters

King of the Blues: The Best of Muddy Waters

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The profile of Muddy Waters on the front of this album is a classic bit of color portrait photography. The bluesman seems to be staring up at something, a glazed look of wonder in his eyes. What could it be? Perhaps a vision of all the different "best of" sets and repackagings of his material that would happen in the future. In the end, it comes down to "That Same Thing" that Waters used to sing about, although he was talking about something else. The material this artist cut for Chess during this period is nothing short of a blues revelation. There has never been anything quite like it, before or after, and when one has heard Muddy Waters from this period, one has simply heard the best blues has to offer. This collection was the first "best of" Chess created, obviously mindful that what they had on their hands was nothing less than a tray of gold. The earliest pieces, such as "Louisiana Blues," are just marvelous, the country blues slide guitar augmented just so slightly by string bass, the harmonica of Little Walter, and the barest trace of percussion. Rhythmically, these performances are flawless and drenched with the feel as if they were slabs of chicken that had spent the day simmering in a jerk sauce. From there, one hears the classic Chicago blues combo sound emerging, which it does with great glory on tracks such as "Standing Around Crying." Yet with all the more extensive material that has been released of this artist since the late 50s, it is hard to conceive of why a consumer looking for Waters would settle for this collection. It is not a question of "less is more," as there is great consistency to the Waters discography from this period; listeners who enjoy this material will want more, more, more.

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