RS 500 Greatest Albums of all Time: #38 Muddy Waters - "Anthology"
As many of you know, Rolling Stone
used to be a magazine about music. One of the thicker, “on-topic” issues entitled “500 Greatest Albums of All Time” was one of Rolling Stone’s best and gave me some direction during my days of being a budding music connoisseur. Oddly enough, Rolling Stone did a reprint some months or years later (I honestly don’t know, but I remember thinking it odd as a list like that would SURELY need updating). At that point I reexamined the list and actually did a count of the albums that I had listened to all the way through.
LESS THAN HALF!
I had listened to less than half of those goddamned albums! I was shocked—and so I set a goal to give every single one of these albums a good once-through. I’d like to share some of the results with you here. These short “blurbs” will more than likely not have the analysis as other reviews I do. How can I possibly write about these albums when many of them were released before I was even born? I can’t. Instead I’ll try to give some background and perhaps maybe a “why it was important” kind of analysis based on what the old folks say, and then conclude with my ill-informed and snide comments.
So, to begin, we have at #38 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time Muddy Waters’s The Anthology, 1941-1972. I’d like to be the first one to say that I thought is was strange that “Best of” or “Anthology” type albums made it on Rolling Stone’s list. It seems a bit of a cop-out, especially for seasoned artists who may have a large catalogue to choose from (which didn’t seem to bother any of the other maladroit editors and judges who picked, like, eight Beatles albums).
So, what can a 30-year old say about a vetted collection of music from, arguably, the man who created the standard for modern blues guitar-playing?
I can say nothing about that. You can read much better writing about Muddy Waters and his incredible legacy on other blogs and in books. Yes, BOOKS!
What I can comment on is the quality of the remaster. Modern audio recording and mastering technology have rendered these ancient recordings diverse and pronounced with slide guitar sound. Make no mistake, these are still artifact recordings, but only in the sense that the charming clicks and squeaks from rustic and ground-breaking guitar playing shine through like Muddy was breaking down a brick shit-house with his bare hands.
“I Feel Like Going Home” is a slide guitar joy with thick and nasty runs that are made even more tangible from the quality of the remaster.
“You’re Gonna Need My Help” is dirty and intimate. The slide noises, while shunned in more polished blues records add much to the quiet, but always dynamic intimacy of the track.
Some tracks will be familiar to first-time listeners: “Baby, Please Don’t Go” is a Chicago Blues classic, familiar to even those not versed in blues history; others will find recognize “I Just Want To Make Love To You” from the cover featured on a Diet Coke commercial featuring lecherous, female office workers.
Other tracks are are made remarkably modern-sounding with the remaster. “You Can’t Lose What You Ain’t Never Had” sounds dark and distant when presented with a wide stereo berth.
This is a great collection for a budding blues-enthusiast to get him or her started with one of the greats of Chicago blues. For others already familiar, this is a lovely reintroduction with a more glorious sound. Even though I am not a fan of Rolling Stone’s cop out of choosing a curated anthology over a “slice out of time” album, this is a great collection and is worthy of repeated listens.
The Muddy Waters Anthology: 1947-1972 is available to download on the iTunes Music Store.