Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Review: 'Muddy Waters / The Rolling Stones / Checkerboard Lounge / Live 1981'

In late autumn of 1981, The Rolling Stones were clomping across the States with a bombastic arena act that put paid to the grubby blues rockers they’d once been for good. During their stop in Chicago, Mick, Keith, Ronnie, and Stu popped in to Buddy Guy’s Checkerboard Lounge to catch the man who’d given them that first spark way, way back in 1962. At 66 (and just two years before cancer spirited him away), Muddy Waters retained the vitality of a man younger than half that age. Even confined on his stool, he exuded fire. Powerful as he’d ever been in voice, Muddy’s guitar work was sublime, slipping on his slide to build from liquid ripples to a psychotic torrent on “Country Boy”. When it came time for their respective solos, his supporting guitarists could only seem meek in comparison. Here was an imposing man, seemingly in command of the very elements, a man who could invoke the biggest Rock & Roll band in the universe with an offhand shout of “C’mere, son!” With that, the Stones and their entourage (wives and girlfriends, Ian McLagan, Bobby Keys) shamble in, taking the table at the front of the room. Jagger barely has the chance to shimmy off his overcoat when Muddy is calling him to the stage. This Lucifer, this lithe sex god is no more imposing than anyone else in the room in the presence of the man who bestowed electricity on the blues like Prometheus handed humankind fire.

But in Muddy’s kingdom, everyone is equal, and he gazes upon the yowling Stone like a proud daddy, even as he keeps Mick on a short leash, directing him when to take and leave the stage, when to sing and when to fade back. This is perhaps the most amazing thing about Muddy Waters / The Rolling Stones / Checkerboard Lounge / Live 1981. For the first time in decades, the mighty Rolling Stones are humbled, deferring to a great force than themselves. Watch as Muddy commands “Keith Richards!” and the guitarist climbs across his table to take his place on stage. Up Ronnie Wood! Up Ian Stewart! Then Buddy Guy and Junior Wells! Even as all these titans cram the stage, Muddy owns the gravity, and when he leaves it to let Buddy, Junior, and a very hammy Lefty Dizz do their thing, much of the power is sucked out of the sweaty jam session, only to return when Muddy declares himself ready to return.

This odd event, so rich in blues power yet such an intimate contrast to Let’s Spend the Night Together, Hal Ashby’s document of the Stones bloated 1981 tour, has been bootlegged for years, only a short clip seeing official release in the 1990 doc 25 X 5: The Continuing Adventures of The Rolling Stones. Now Eagle Vision Entertainment has finally released the film as part of its ongoing campaign to pull such rarities from the claws of bootleggers and put them on the streets with the best sound and picture possible. It’s another worthy installment of a series that has so far included such discs as Ladies and Gentlemen… The Rolling Stones and Some Girls Live in Texas ‘78. I’d love to see the company dig a little further back to revive such ‘60s items as the Charlie Is My Darling tour film or a choice selection of T.V. appearances and promo films. For now, I’m looking forward to the Stones’ career documentary Eagle Vision will be releasing later this year.

Get Muddy Waters / The Rolling Stones / Checkerboard Lounge / Live 1981 as a single DVD or DVD/CD combo set at Amazon.com here:
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
All written content of Psychobabble200.blogspot.com is the property of Mike Segretto and may not be reprinted or reposted without permission.