Muddy Waters

Classic Concerts [DVD]

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Classic Concerts is one of those rare historical music compilation DVDs for which there's nothing significant to criticize, and much to praise. The bulk of the two-hour disc is devoted to three Muddy Waters concerts from different eras, including his historical 1960 Newport Jazz Festival appearance, a 1968 show at the Copenhagen Jazz Festival, and a 1977 gig at the Molde Jazz Festival in Norway. Although the black-and-white Newport footage does not capture the entire concert (much of which has never circulated), it does contain 26 minutes, with Muddy backed by an excellent band including two blues stars in their own right (pianist Otis Spann and harmonica player James Cotton). This is definitely the most exciting portion of the DVD, including fine versions of his staples "(I'm Your) Hoochie Coochie Man," "Tiger in Your Tank," "Rollin' Stone," and above all an extended "Got My Mojo Working." Waters' shakes and shivers are truly spine-chilling on that last number, with some levity introduced by a section where he dances with Cotton. The finale, "Mean Mistreater/Going to Chicago Blues," where several other singers are brought on for cameos, is relatively inessential. But this segment is still one of the top vintage blues-on-film documents of all, enhanced for this DVD by the syncing of stereo live recordings to three of the songs to improve the audio (though "Rollin' Stone" and "Mean Mistreater" remain in the original mono film sound).

By the time of the 1968 Denmark show (also shot in black-and-white), only Spann was remaining from the Newport band. It's a somewhat more staid and less electrifying performance, but still sturdy Chicago blues, though Paul Oscher's harmonica seems undermiked. Waters was less mobile by the time of the 1977 concert (shown in color), sitting on a stool throughout most of the show (whereas before a serious 1969 car accident he'd stood). Again, however, this is still a respectable showcase for his intact vocal talents, with "Got My Mojo Working" and "(I'm Your) Hoochie Coochie Man" remaining in his set (as they had at the Denmark gig as well). Brief but worthwhile bonus features include a 1977 London performance of "The Blues Had a Baby and They Named It Rock & Roll"; a 1972 British TV interview; and an interview done at the 1977 Molde show where Waters patiently responds to rather clich├ęd questions, asking his interrogator to "bring it to me straight, brother" when the interviewer gingerly asks whether Muddy's music has political aspects. Detailed liner notes, mostly written by Bob Margolin (who plays guitar behind Waters in the 1977 Norwegian footage) and also featuring an appreciation from Bill Wyman, are also included in this high-grade package.

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