Customer Review

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An invaluable look at Muddy Waters' early work., September 14, 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: The Complete Plantation Recordings (Audio CD)
Before he became the phenomenon known as Muddy Waters, McKinley Morganfield was a sharecropper at Stovall's Plantation in Clarksdale, Mississippi who worked the soil for a living and played the blues to escape the rigors of his everday life. The Complete Plantation recordings brings us the rawest Muddy Waters yet, documented by Library of Congress folklorist Alan Lomax from 1941-42.
Alot of the immediate appeal of the collection comes from hearing early versions of songs he would later record for the Chess brothers in Chicago. "I Can't be Satisfied" is here in its scorching embryonic state as "I Be's Troubled" as are two takes of "Country Blues" the haunting predecessor to "I Feel Like Going Home." Lomax asks Waters about his inspirations and compositional style in four interview tracks which tend to add more atmosphere than insight. The real gems here are five tracks of the Son Simms Four, a string band in which Waters played guitar (with Henry "Son" Simms on vocal and violin, Percy Thomas on Guitar and Louis Ford on Mandolin). Not only are they documents of Waters in an improvisational collaboration with other artists, and rare examples of authentic black string music, a frequently overlooked area of southern folklore, they are some great dance blues tunes. "Joe Turner," particularly, makes the dance origins of the blues readily apparent.
Afficionados of Muddy Waters' know that his earlier his work, the more intense and raw the performance, Waters having unforntunately fallen into an overproduced 12-bar rut further into his career. While these performances are indisputably intense, feeling closer to the Mississippi Delta than their Chicago counterparts, they lack Waters' distinctive sound that was evident in his early Chess work; a sound that evolved from the tensions between his country roots and big city surroundings. It was that inimitable style which catapulted Waters onto blues' Mount Olympus, and which makes this collection slightly less essential than The Best of Muddy Waters (CHD-31268)or the other compilations of his early work on the Chess label. That said, once introduced to Waters' Chicago classics, "The Plantation Recordings" become required listening for anyone wanting know the infrastructure on which one of the most towering shadows in blues is built.
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