52 Weeks of Music

Muddy Waters – Hard Again

Posted in Uncategorized by Mark on January 19, 2009

In the late 50’s & early 60’s Muddy travelled to England. During this time his music reached new, white audiences for the first time, but he was at the start of a quiet period in career.

During the 1960s a new breed of artist, who owed much to Muddy, began rising to prominence – acts like Hendrix, Led Zepplin, Eric Clapton, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Jeff Beck and Brian May.  However the black audience began turning away from blues music. Perhaps as a symptom of this Chess, the label Muddy had recorded with since the early days, also began to turn their attention elsewhere. Muddy continued recording and performing, but without the success he had experienced in Chicago.

In 1976 Muddy performed at the legendary “Last Waltz” farewell concert for “The Band“, sharing the stage with the likes of Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell and Ringo Starr. This concert proved to be another turning point for Muddy as it signified his return to form and elevation to new heights of popularity.

In 1977 Muddy switched record labels and teamed up with Johnny Winter to kick off the second phase of Muddy’s career. This week’s album, aptly titled Hard Again, was the first recording in a collaboration that was to last the rest of Muddy’s life. Together they recorded three more albums over the next 4 years before Muddy’s health began to deteriorate.

Muddy played his last concert in 1982, filling in in Eric Clapton’s band at a gig in Florida. In 1983 Muddy died of a heart attack, at home in bed.

muddy-waters-03

Aside from Robert Johnson, no single figure is more important in the history and development of the blues than Waters.

In 1987 Muddy was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The above quote is taken from his entry.

Allmusic Review

Great blues from one of the dominant voices of the genre.
allmusic ★★★★★

Sample: http://blip.fm/profile/markstanton/blip/7095994

Robert Johnson – The Complete Recordings (almost)

Posted in Uncategorized by Mark on January 5, 2009

You might have noticed that last week I cheated slightly – while I picked an artist who was there at the start, I picked a recording that was from late in his lengthy career. This wasn’t an accident, I just felt that it would be good to start with something fairly accessible and Son House’s early stuff is a bit harder to get into. The recording quality isn’t great and the overall feel, while being historically important, isn’t as catchy or fun as that London gig.

There will be no cheating this week. In part because I think it’s important to go back to those early days and in part because this week’s artist had an extremely short career.

Robert Johnson

Robert Johnson

Robert Leroy Johnson  was born on May 8 1911 in Mississippi. Not much is known about his life and what is known is based on often conflicting and imaginative annecdotes. The only concrete evidence of Johnson’s existence is his music, two photographs, two marriage certificates and a death certificate. Some of the problems in researching Johnson’s life are beautifully documented in Searching for Robert Johnson.

Johnson spent most of his youth in Mississippi and Tennessee. He married twice, losing his 16 year old first wife and first child in childbirth.

Son House remebered Johnson as a boy who followed him around and tried to imitate him with little success. The fact that Johnson managed to go from novice guitarist to being one of the greatest blues-men of all time in the space of two years helped feed the “devil legend”:

According to a legend known to modern Blues fans, Robert Johnson was a young black man living on a plantation in rural Mississippi. Branded with a burning desire to become a great blues musician, he was instructed to take his guitar to a crossroad near Dockery’s plantation at midnight. There he was met by a large black man (the Devil) who took the guitar from Johnson and tuned it, giving him mastery of the guitar, and handed it back to him in return for his soul. In exchange Robert Johnson became able to play, sing, and create the greatest blues anyone had ever heard.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Johnson_%28musician%29

This story was also fed by the fact that Johnson died so soon after the legendary meeting.

Johnson was an itinerant musician, travelling from town to town in the deep south, busking on street corners and playing juke joints. He recorded twice; in San Antonio Texas in 1936 and in Dallas Texas in 1937.

Johnson died on August 16 1938 at age 27. As with many other details of his life, there are a number of conflicting stories of his death. One was that the devil was claiming his due, another that he was poised with strychnine by a jealous husband, another that his death was as a result of syphilis and another that he had Marfan’s Syndrome.

Johnson was not immediately an influential musician – to most of his contemporaries he was one of many and it wasn’t until the 60’s that his work really started to stand out. Led Zepplin, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton and The Rolling Stones were all fans of his work.

This week’s album is The Complete Recordings – although I’ve removed the alternate takes of many of the songs so it fits on a single CD, so many we should call it The (in)Complete Recordings.

rjohnsonthecompleterecordings

Allmusic Review

The Complete Recordings is essential listening
allmusic ★★★★★

Sample: http://blip.fm/profile/markstanton/blip/7094832

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