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Muddy Waters—Live at ChicagoFest
Of all the Muddy Waters eras you’d love to go back in time to experience—like early ‘40s Muddy in Coahoma County, MS, or mid-‘50s Chicago Muddy—you probably wouldn’t set the flux capacitor to 1981 ChicagoFest Muddy. The blues master was in the twilight of his career, playing the ChicagoFest outdoor music festival with a practically brand-new backing band put together by long-time friend Mojo Buford. That this performance was even recorded is surprising, so it’s unfair to knock it for its quality or for Waters’ performance compared to those of his prime. With that being said, this performance can still provide quite a schoolin’ for any blues player willing to pause for a moment and appreciate such a crossroads of time and place.
There’s a lot to take in. There’s Waters’ sheer embodiment of the blues in songs like “Mannish Boy” and “I’m a King Bee,” with his authoritative vocal command and his restrained thumbpick licks between repeated verse lines. His aggressive pinky slide technique is still raw and emotive in “Call Me Muddy Waters” and “She’s Nineteen Years Old.” Johnny Winters hangs around for several songs and takes some solos on his Les Paul. Mighty Joe Young and Big Twist also make an appearance, turning “Five Long Years” into an improvisational tribute to Waters, much to his delight. The video closes with “Got My Mojo Working,” where Buford channels Little Walter and whips the crowd into a frenzy. Placed in the proper perspective, this performance from the end of Waters’ career is a nice little gem. —JC
Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention–In the 1960s
A clean cut, young man dressed in his Sunday best is whisked to center stage on The Steve Allen Show where two bicycles are waiting for him. He proceeds to make music with them, blowing into handlebars and running a bow across spokes—and just like that, the 22-year old artist is introduced to the US.
This clip is among the 134 minutes of footage in the newly released DVD, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention—In the 1960s, which documents Zappa’s oddball musical journey. Zappa was an avant-garde composer and drew from a mixed bag of influences that ranged from Howlin’ Wolf to Igor Stravinsky. His ability to challenge people to rethink the possibilities of music was entertaining and impressive.
In addition to archival television appearances, the DVD contains studio footage, previously unreleased interviews and new interviews with band members and music journalists, offering a well-rounded perspective on the band’s evolution and an insightful glimpse into what made Zappa tick. —CK