Sep 4, 2010

The Black Keys vs Muddy Waters Electric Mud

Not workwear but both are vintage & vintage inspired and I do listen to this while working. 

In my humble opinion, these days The Black Keys are one of the few bands working that truly matter. Besides rotation on my ipod & cd player in the Grand Wagoneer, I am hearing multiple tracks from the new record Brothers being played on a regular basis on NPR / KCRW during my commute, even used as bumper music for their recent pledge drive. This has inspired me to revisit my cds & vinyl in search of a couple of albums that I feel played a role in shaping both the sound on the new cd & the Key’s psychedelic blues funk in general. Muddy Waters much underrated 1968 classic ELECTRIC MUD, its follow up album After The Rain and The Howlin’ Wolf Album are those records.

Muddy Waters-Manish Boy- from the 1968 album Electric Mud

Electric Mud was recorded in 1968 and featured Muddy Waters playing funked up fuzzed out psychedelic versions of some of his classics and a few covers. Originally intended to appeal to the late 1960’s Jimi Hendrix record buyer, Electric Mud was panned by most critics. Musicians on the record included 70’s Miles Davis Agartha, Dark Magus & Pangea era guitar virtuoso Pete Cosey, guitarist Phil Upchurch, bassist Louis Satterfield and drummer Morris Jennings along with a few other Chicago based avant jazz musicians who would go on to play with groups such as the Pharaohs, Ramsey Lewis & Earth Wind and Fire.

More than a few similarities in cover art and musical content.

Compare The Black Keys version of She’s Long Gone to the Muddy Waters version of She’s All Right from Electric Mud. I believe both are takes on the classic Catfish Blues.

The Black Keys-She’s Long Gone, from the 2010 album Brothers 

Muddy Waters-She’s All Right, from the 1968 album Electric Mud

The crazy guitar soloing is Pete Cosey who would go on to play in the Miles Davis Group during its 1973-1975 incarnation, responsible for some of the most intense, challenging, dense, funky and smile inducing music ever played live. You can really hear him at the 3:30 mark where his solo takes off and leads into a version of The Temptations classic My Girl. More on Electric Miles & Pete Cosey to follow.

For those fans of The Black Keys who don’t yet know about Electric Mud, The Howlin’ Wolf Album or Muddy Waters After the Rain, all are on the Cadet Concepts label, active from 1967-1971, formed by Marshall Chess, son of Leonard Chess of Chess Records. Cadet released psychedelic recordings including the 3 mentioned by seminal Chicago bluesmen Muddy Waters & Howlin Wolf. All three records featured the same core backing band of guitarists Phil Upchurch & Pete Cosey, drummer Morris Jennings & bassist Louis Satterfield. All three sound as good if not better today than when they were originally released some 40 years ago. Electric Mud has been reissued and should be available as a new cd or vinyl along with the usual used copies of both, The Howlin’ Wolf Album was also reissued on vinyl and After the Rain can be had as a Japanese import. so go get some!