Muddy Waters

The Real Folk Blues/More Real Folk Blues [BGO]

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This imported disc is the way to hear the material on these two legendary records -- bright, sharp, and mean. Released in January of 1966, The Real Folk Blues was the first long-player since The Best of Muddy Waters, eight years earlier, to assemble any of Muddy's various singles, from "Gypsy Woman" in 1947 through "The Same Thing" in 1964, in one place. The transformation of Muddy's persona is astonishing, from the youthful experimenter in "Gypsy Woman" to the bold, elegant virtuoso in "You Can't Lose What You Ain't Never Had." More Real Folk Blues, which followed a year later, was the last raid on Muddy's single catalog until the '70s, and it tied up several loose ends -- there's nothing half as familiar as "Rollin' and Tumblin'" or "Mannish Boy" from the companion volume, but there are a dozen tracks from Muddy's early prime at the dawn of the '50s, playing with a band that included Little Walter. The songs include his version of Robert Johnson's "Kind-Hearted Woman," which is reshaped in Muddy's electric style, a precursor to his remakes of Big Bill Broonzy's repertory at the other end of the decade. The 1998 remastering for BGO's two-on-one CD reissue puts the bass practically up against your ear, the slide guitar of "Sad Letter" or "Gonna Need My Help" is right in your face, and Muddy's singing has the impact of a pile driver singing the blues. The notes are informative, although the absence of a sessionography or credits is inconvenient and the one area where the producers' efforts fell flat -- in every other respect, this is a vital addition to Muddy's CD discography, even for those who own the domestic versions of both titles. (British import).

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