by Jeff Schwarz
Hard Again (1977)
I’m Ready (1978)
King Bee (1981)
The album made my little pee-pee hard again! This apt description, offered by Mr. Waters himself, holds true for this trio of expanded reissues as the remastering work bestows a nice warm sonic sheen and the bonus song selection is inspired. Produced by blues-rocker Johnny Winter — the palest man to ever have had his woman do him wrong — these albums represent a career rebirth for Waters and are the best the blues could offer in the late ’70s and early ’80s. The set is an outstanding finale for a man who defined modern electric blues.
But were these original albums simply retreads of his Chess classics? In a word, hell no! Yes, there are appearances by some of his glory days cohorts (Jimmy Rogers, James Cotton, Big Walter Horton) but the bulk of the musicians come from his then-current road band. And they sound tight. If that ain’t enough, old pink eyes Johnny Winter is along on second and sometimes third guitar, invigorating the music with his, at the time, modern six-stringisms. Yes, some of Winter’s noodles don’t fit, but add 10 points for attempting a new spin on the crusty I-IV-V7 chord routine.
If you only have the dough to pick up two of these records, go with Hard Again and I’m Ready. King Bee (Muddy’s final album) lacks the enthusiasm of the first two; yeah, the playing is great, but the band was in departure and Muddy’s health was failing (he expired in 1983). Though most of these musicians would never again play with Waters, the music they created has defined the times as well as the man.
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