Electric Mud has nothing to do with songs such as “Tiger Feet” but is in fact a classic Muddy Waters album released in 1968 to try to re-address the in balance of profitable white blues albums which made the likes of Clapton, Led Zeppelin and numerous others both rich and famous via their harvesting of the blues.
The album, depending on your age, vantage point and general attitude triggered a reaction of either derision (blues purists) or that of enthusiasm (young rock fans).
Put together in hopes of reviving Waters’ slumping career, Chess, eschewing Waters’ usual band, rounded up a group of new musicians (who originally dubbed themselves “The Electric Niggers“). Once in the studio the participants set the gear to high in search of wah-wah and fuzz.
Clocking in at eight songs in 36 minutes, the record is a blues-driven psychedelic rock & roll slingshot that gives no quarter.
Whether Chess as producer, Muddy, or the crew, went into the sessions with any such idea in mind is anyone’s guess; regardless, what they brewed up in those sessions has been recycled and mimicked countless times since over the past four decades. Comprised of originals, covers and re-workings, Electric Mud feels of a piece in a way that only happy accidents and blind luck experiments can.
Electric Mud’s a dirty record, there’s nothing slick here. It’s the kind of record you put on at night—it’s the kind you put on when there are doors to be kicked in.
The album incorporates use of wah-wah pedal and fuzzbox. Marshall Chess augmented the rhythm of Muddy Waters’ live band with the use of electric organ and saxophone.
Blues purists criticized the album’s psychedelic sound although Muddy Waters said of the album’s sound, “That guitar sounds just like a cat — meow — and the drums have a loping, busy beat.”
“I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man” incorporates free jazz influences, with Gene Barge performing a concert harp.
Muddy Waters ironically steals back from The Stones by performing the vocals of “Let’s Spend the Night Together” in a gospel-soul style.
According to Buddy Guy, “[Muddy Waters couldn’t] feel this psychedelic stuff at all…and if the feeling is gone, that’s it. You can’t get too busy behind a singer. You’ve got to let him sing it..Muddy Waters’ previous albums replicated the sound of his live performances.
Working with a studio band rather than his own was problematic for Muddy Waters, who could not perform material from the album live. He stated “What the hell do you have a record for if you can’t play the first time it’s out? I’m so sick of that…If you’ve got to have big amplifiers and wah-wahs and equipment to make you guitar say different things, well, hell, you can’t play no blues.”
The title of the album did not refer to the use of electric guitar, as Muddy Waters had played the instrument since he first signed to Chess Records. The use of the term “electric” is used in a psychedelic context.
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