Various Artists

Muddy Waters: Rollin' Stone

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The U.K.'s Proper imprint usually gets it right when it comes to reissues. That said, the trio of Chicago blues collections they released in 2009 -- the other two being Headhunters and a Muddy Waters comp entitled I'm Ready (not to be confused with the Blue Sky title of the same name) -- are all stellar. This one contains 24 tracks that feature not only Waters but many of his companions as well as his influences. Son House opens the set with his original version of "Walkin' Blues" only to be followed directly by Muddy with his own early version. This formula follows suit for the first half of the record with Muddy's version of tunes by Robert Jr. Lockwood, Ann Cole's reading of "Got My Mojo Workin'" followed by Waters' definitive one, and so on. The last half of the set focuses on Muddy and radical covers of reinterpretations of tunes that were influenced by him. Check his version of Memphis Minnie's "Bumble Bee" (he rewrote it as "Honey Bee"), or Diddley's "I'm a Man," re-written as "Mannish Boy." This set is strictly all killer and no filler musically, but it is even more engaging historically because it offers -- for a great price -- an excellent look at how the folk-blues became the electric blues by its tradition of borrowing and furthered the music -- some cynics might call it stealing, but it was the original version of sampling. This one is highly recommended.

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