Muddy Waters

A.K.A. McKinley Morganfield

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The real title of this was actually A.K.A. Muddy Waters, with the name McKinley Morganfield in the bigger typeface reserved for the artist's name. Of course, this created confusion in some quarters, with the result that consumers were sometimes unable to find this set in the Muddy Waters bin. And of course they would be looking for it, since at the time it was one of the best retrospectives of his material available. Every conceivable classic by Waters is present here, in an intelligently edited presentation that flows through a dozen years of the great bluesman's career. The trip starts with a solo, pure Delta blues sound in 1948, but by 1960 a sophisticated, swinging Chicago blues combo style had been established for several years, with Waters an acknowledged master. The title/artist boondoggle didn't faze Chess; the company simply figured out other ways to repackage this material and all the other Muddy Waters in the archive, which it has continued doing over and over and over. This collection was done in the "two-fer" gatefold package that was popular at the time, and followed a period when most of the Chess catalog had long since been unavailable except in a few cut-out bins. There are several nice full-face shots of Waters, and the liner notes aren't bad, but one can't say this is a set that is loaded with information. The sidemen credits are not printed clearly anywhere, for example. Combined with the photographic snub, this is not a good way to establish the band ambience that is such an important part of Waters' work, let alone alert the unsophisticated listener to the presence of so many great players on board. The sound is great, though. The analog mastering is the required oven for cooking this kind of bread, while this particular production sticks with mono whenever no stereo was present on the original.

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