There are scores of Muddy Waters compilations out there, and while it might be overreaching a bit to call this 24-track single-disc set definitive, it is still a mighty good selection, including as it does all of Waters' major singles from Chess Records and its Aristocrat Records imprint between the years 1948 and 1964 along with a single track from 1976's Hard Again, Waters' first actual LP, which was released on the Columbia subsidiary Blue Sky and produced by Johnny Winter. All that's really missing here in order to give this set a full sweep through Waters' career is a couple of tracks from the series of field recordings Alan Lomax did with Waters in 1941 and 1942 when Muddy was still known as McKinley Morganfield, with "I Be's Troubled" being the most likely candidate, since it was the song Muddy rewrote for his first single, 1948's brilliantly intimate "I Can't Be Satisfied," the song that kicks off this set. Other obvious highlights here include 1950's "Louisiana Blues," a chunk of swampy blues that was harmonica man Little Walter's debut recording with Waters, the spooky but bright "I'm Ready" (one wonders what Waters would think of this song being used for a Viagra commercial) from 1954, and the chugging original recording of "Got My Mojo Working" from 1957. "You Shook Me" from 1962 features a Waters vocal over a basic track recorded by Earl Hooker a year earlier, yet still manages to sound edgy and immediate. "My Home Is in the Delta," an acoustic outing from 1963 featuring Buddy Guy, is a low-key and atmospheric masterpiece that could well serve as Waters' own concise autobiography. The Winter-produced cut from 1976, "Crosseyed Cat," sounds big and messy by comparison, and leaving it off this compilation would have made 1964's "You Can't Lose What You Ain't Never Had," Waters' last hit for Chess, a much more fitting final track. In the end, Waters' considerable reputation rests with his Chess sides, and deservedly so, and since all of the essential ones are here, this makes a close to ideal introduction to one of the most important voices in blues history.
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AllMusic Review by Steve Leggett