Muddy Waters was the single most important artist to emerge in post-war American blues. A peerless singer, a gifted songwriter, an able guitarist, and leader of one of the strongest bands in the genre (which became a proving ground for a number of musicians who would become legends in their own right), Waters absorbed the influences of rural blues from the Deep South and moved them uptown, injecting his music with a fierce, electric energy and helping pioneer the Chicago Blues style that would come to dominate the music through the 1950s, ‘60s, and '70s. The depth of Waters' influence on rock as well as blues is almost incalculable, and remarkably, he made some of his strongest and most vital recordings in the last five years of his life.
One could definitely argue that this 16-track album doesn't in fact contain the best of Muddy Waters since it lacks any of his template-setting and explosive 1950s sides from Chess Records, being compiled instead from Waters' late-'70s and early-'80s output on the Blue Sky label with Johnny Winter in the producer's chair. No, the Chess tracks are the ones to get first, but the Blue Sky material makes for a nice addendum, featuring a slightly more refined sound that allows each song to develop easily and naturally. Highlights include a wonderfully ragged and loose acoustic do-over of "I Can't Be Satisfied," a sturdy "Good Morning Little School Girl," and a copycat but still fun version of Slim Harpo's "I'm a King Bee."Steve Leggett - All Music
At Newport 1960 is a live album by Muddy Waters performed at Newport Jazz Festival in Newport, Rhode Island, with his backing band, consisting of Otis Spann (piano, vocals), Pat Hare (guitar), James Cotton (harmonica), Andrew Stevens (bass) and Francis Clay (drums), on July 3. Waters's performances across Europe in the 1950s and at Newport helped popularize blues to a broader audience, especially to whites. The album is said to be one of the first live blues albums.
Of all the post-Fathers & Sons attempts at updating Muddy's sound in collaboration with younger white musicians, this album worked best because they let Muddy be himself, producing music that compared favorably to his concerts of the period, which were wonderful. His final album for Chess (recorded at Levon Helm's Woodstock studio, not in Chicago), with Helm and fellow Band-member Garth Hudson teaming up with Muddy's touring band, it was a rocking (in the bluesy sense) soulful swansong to the label where he got his start. Muddy covers some songs he knew back when (including Louis Jordan's "Caldonia" and "Let The Good Times Roll"), plays some slide, and generally has a great time on this Grammy-winning album. This record got lost in the shuffle between the collapse of Chess Records and the revival of Muddy's career under the auspices of Johnny Winter, and was forgotten until 1995. The CD contains one previously unreleased number, "Fox Squirrel".
Muddy Waters was the leading exponent of Chicago blues in the Fifties, and with him, the blues came up from the Delta and went electric. His guitar licks and repertoire have fueled innumerable blues bands.
After the Rain dates from the most controversial period in Muddy Waters' history – along with its predecessors, Electric Mud (probably the most critically despised album in Muddy's catalog) and Brass and the Blues (an effort to turn him into B.B. King), it came out of an era in which Chess Records was desperately thrashing around trying any musical gambit to boost the sales of its top blues stars. But unlike Electric Mud, in which the repertoire selected by producer Marshall Chess was mostly unsuited, and the musical settings provided by Phil Upchurch, Pete Cosey et al. were too loud and too frenetic for Muddy's style of singing, After the Rain simply let him be Muddy Waters.