Muddy Waters brought a Son House-like Delta country-blues style north with him from Mississippi to Chicago in 1943, intent on making a living from music. Switching from acoustic to electric guitar in order to be better heard in the Chicago clubs and bars, Waters gradually assembled one of the greatest ongoing bands in the history of blues, and in the process, Waters and his band also assembled the very template for classic Chicago blues. Waters first cut a track for the Chess Brothers in 1947, who released it on their Aristocrat Records imprint, and for the next two decades or so, Waters turned out the basic iconic catalog of electric Chicago blues for various Chess imprints. Waters was an astute bandleader, and musicians like Little Walter, Junior Wells, James Cotton, Willie Dixon, and Otis Spann all contributed heavily to these sides, many of which were produced by Dixon, and the Chess tracks sit at the heart of Chicago blues, signaling the very point where the blues became modern and urban. Chess' free-fall demise as a label in 1975 left Waters without a recording contract, but luckily, blues guitarist Johnny Winter, a longtime Waters fan, helped Waters get a deal with Blue Sky Records. Winter, sitting in with Waters' road band at the time (which included Bob Margolin, Willie "Big Eyes" Smith, James Cotton, and Pinetop Perkins), produced three Muddy Waters studio albums and a live set for Blue Sky, beginning with Hard Again in 1977. These sessions were similar in feel and power to the earlier Chess sessions, and certainly don't represent any fall-off in intensity or quality. The ten tracks collected here, including "Howling Wolf" and "I'm a King Bee," are drawn from the Winter sessions, although they naturally only scratch the surface.
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AllMusic Review by Steve Leggett