Jan 10: Muddy Waters released “Hard Again” in 1977 – 40 years ago

…..Waters sings as though his life depended on it, Johnny Winter proves with every note how right he was to want to do this, and James Cotton–well, James Cotton doesn’t open his mouth except to make room for the harmonica, which sounds just great.
~Robert Christgau (robertchristgau.com)

This is Muddy Waters’ best “late” album.. Johnny Winter sure inspired the old blues legend to peak performance…. a wonderful record.

Mannish Boy:

From Wikipedia:

Released January 10, 1977
Recorded October 1976
Genre Electric blues
Length 49:39
Label Blue Sky
Producer Johnny Winter

Hard Again is a 1977 Chicago-style electric blues album by Muddy Waters. It was recorded by its producer, Johnny Winter, in a rough, bare-bones style. After several lackluster records, this was Waters’s comeback album.

Released on January 10, 1977 (see 1977 in music), Hard Again was Muddy’s first album released by the Blue Sky record label after he left Chess.

Muddy waters - Hard Again inside

Bus Driver:

Background – In August 1975, Chess Records was sold to All Platinum Records and became a reissue label only. It was sometime after this when Muddy Waters left the label and did not record any new studio material, until he signed with Johnny Winter’s Blue Sky record label, when he went into the studio in October 1976.

Recording – The sessions for Hard Again were recorded across the space of three days. Producing the session was Johnny Winter and engineering the sessions was Dave Still – who previously engineered Johnny’s brother Edgar, Foghat, and Alan Merrill. For the recordings Muddy used his then current touring band of guitarist Bob Margolin, pianist Pinetop Perkins, and drummer Willie “Big Eyes” Smith. Other backing members during the sessions were harmonicist James Cotton, who performed with Muddy at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1960, and bassist Charles Calmeses, who performed with both Johnny Winter and James Cotton in the past.

Muddy waters - Hard Again back

 

I Want To Be Loved:

Songs – Three of the songs on the album – “Mannish Boy”, “I Want to Be Loved”, and “I Can’t Be Satisfied” – were re-recordings of songs that were previously recorded for Chess Records. One of the songs recorded, “The Blues Had a Baby and They Named It Rock and Roll, Pt. 2”, was co-written by Brownie McGhee and another song, “Bus Driver”, was co-written by T. Abrahamson.

An outtake from the recording sessions, “Walking Through the Park”, appeared on the 2004 Legacy Recordings reissue CD, while several more unused tracks appeared on King Bee in 1981.

cotton winter waters
James Cotton, Johnny Winter & Muddy Waters

Jealous Hearted Man:

Reception:

  • The album was well received by music critics. John Quaintance of Yahoo! Music called it “a remarkable album” and a “return to form” for Waters, commenting that “Johnny Winter, … James Cotton, Pinetop Perkins, Bob Margolin, Charles Calmese and Willie “Big Eyes” Smith are all thrilled to be in the same room with Muddy, and it shows, as they lay down a serious foundation for the old master who struts and brags like it’s 1950 again.”
  • Q called it “a guaranteed delight” for “students of the post-war blues”
  • Down Beat stated, “Singing, [Waters is] playful and proud, brawny and insistent, his free-flow of inspiration spreading to his superlative road band”.
  • Dan Oppenheimer of Rolling Stone magazine said that “Mannish Boy” sounded like it was recorded live, while both Oppenheimer and Daniel Gioffre of Allmusic state how powerful Willie “Big Eyes” Smith’s drumming is. Oppenheimer and Gioffre both share the opinion that Hard Again is Muddy Waters comeback album.
  • In The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004), Rolling Stone journalist Dave Marsh gave the album four out of five stars and commented that “Johnny Winter provided the sensitive production touch otherwise lacking on some of [Waters’] early ’70s recordings.”
  • In his consumer guide for The Village Voice, Robert Christgau gave the album an A rating upon its release, indicating “a great record both of whose sides offer enduring pleasure and surprise.” He praised its “intensity”, which he attributed to “the natural enthusiasm of an inspired collaboration”, and remarked on its standing in Chicago blues, “except maybe for B.B. King’s Live at the Regal and Otis Spann’s Walking the Blues (oh, there must be others, but let me go on) I can’t recall a better blues album than this.”
  • In a later review for Blender, Christgau found Waters to be in “virile voice” and commented that “all-star musicians and fresh prospects stimulate the excitement promised in the title.”

I Can’t Be Satisfied:

Album of the day @ spotify:

 

Other January 10:

  •  Roderick David “Rod” Stewart, CBE (born 10 January 1945) is a British singer-songwriter, born and raised in North London, and currently residing in Epping. He is of Scottish and English ancestry. With his distinctive raspy singing voice, Stewart came to prominence in the late 1960s and early 1970s with The Jeff Beck Group and then Faces. He launched his solo career in 1969 with his debut album An Old Raincoat Won’t Ever Let You Down (US: The Rod Stewart Album). His work with The Jeff Beck Group and Faces influenced heavy metal genres.
  • Gerald “Jerry” Wexler (January 10, 1917 – August 15, 2008) was a music journalist turned music producer, and was regarded as one of the major record industry players behind music from the 1950s through the 1980s. He coined the term “rhythm and blues”, and was integral in signing and/or producing many of the biggest acts of the last 50 years, including Ray Charles, the Allman Brothers, Chris Connor, Aretha Franklin, Led Zeppelin, Wilson Pickett, Dire Straits, Dusty Springfield and Bob Dylan. Wexler was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. Jerry Wexler was one of the most highly-regarded A&R men in popular music history, a status bolstered by his accomplishments with Aretha Franklin.
  • Donald Jay Fagen (born January 10, 1948) is an American musician and songwriter, best known as the co-founder (along with partner Walter Becker) and lead singer of the rock band Steely Dan.
  • Maxwell Lemuel “Max” Roach (January 10, 1924 – August 16, 2007) was an American jazz percussionist, drummer, and composer.
  • Heartbreak Hotel” is a song recorded by American rock and roll musician Elvis Presley. It was released as a single on January 27, 1956, Presley’s first on his new record label RCA Victor. His first number one pop record, “Heartbreak Hotel” topped Billboard‘s Top 100 chart, became his first million-seller, and was the best-selling single of 1956. It was written by Tommy Durden and Mae Boren Axton.
    Recorded – January 10, 1956 in Nashville, Tennessee
  • Ronald “Ronnie” Hawkins (born January 10, 1935) is a Juno Award-winning rockabilly musician whose career has spanned more than half a century. Though his career began in Arkansas, USA, where he’d been born and raised, it was in Ontario, Canada where he found success and settled for most of his life. He is considered highly influential in the establishment and evolution of rock music in Canada.

-Egil