This may be the most polarizing album ever to come out of the Chess empire (unless that Rotary Connection Christmas album really drives you batty); it’s telling that they chose to release this on the more daring Cadet Concept subsidiary. It’s funny to think that this album was intended to update Muddy Waters’ image to appeal to the younger people and, 42 years on, that’s exactly what it did for me, who currently fits the original demographic they were after: I have no quarrel with traditional blues, I even enjoy it when the mood strikes me, but this is the only Muddy Waters album that I beat the proverbial door down to acquire. And this album is ferocious! There’s no session information given but I would have to imagine that it’s the usual Chess/Cadet session crew backing him up. The bass rumbles along louder than I’ve ever heard John Paul Jones’ or John Entwistle’s. The drums, in particular the bass drum, are louder than those in any psych group I can think of other than maybe the Move. The most surprising aspect may be that, despite the fact that Muddy reportedly hated this album with a passion, his electric guitar playing is phenonmenal. I suppose this is expected from a great bluseman, but he also knows how to use its new-found volume and distortion to great effect. He growls through each monster track, achieving what Jimi Hendrix was ly after in his formative days. As it is a late 60s Cadet Concept album, the ace in the hole is the arrangement, this time from the great Charles Stepney, in the midst of arranging the hell out of those Rotary Connection and Ramsey Lewis albums (the latter along with Richard Evans). Stepney actually displays quite a bit of restraint here, with his patented complex string and brass parts lurking way in the background, the exception being when “She’s Alright” brilliantly morphs it’s coda into the string-laden bridge from “My Girl”.
Most blues purists decry this, which I suppose is understandable, but you have to admit that this is as convincing a psychedelic-blues album as anything Cream or Led Zeppelin could hope to come up with. Still underrated by most critics, this is truly a left-field masterpiece. –Mike