The Chess Box does not contain all the great music Muddy Waters made. His talent and legacy are too large to be captured in a mere three discs, even one that spans from 1947 to 1972. This means, of course, that his legendary plantation recordings with Alan Lomax are not here, nor is his dynamic late-'70s comeback, Hard Again. But, truth be told, it doesn't feel like they're missing, since Waters' legend was built on the music that he made for Chess, and much of the greatest of that is here. Few box sets have chronicled an artist's best work as effectively as this; even the handful of rare, previously unreleased recordings sit perfectly next to the essential singles (this is particularly true of alternate takes of Fathers and Sons material). Sure, there are great Chess sides that aren't here, but those are great sides that the serious listener and aficionado need to seek out. For everybody else, this is a monumental chronicle of Waters at his best, illustrating his influence while providing rich, endlessly fascinating music.
The Jeff Beck Group was an English rock band formed in London in January 1967 by former The Yardbirds guitarist Jeff Beck. Their innovative approach to heavy-sounding blues and rhythm and blues was a major influence on popular music.
Of all the post-Fathers & Sons attempts at updating Muddy's sound in collaboration with younger white musicians, this album worked best because they let Muddy be himself, producing music that compared favorably to his concerts of the period, which were wonderful. His final album for Chess (recorded at Levon Helm's Woodstock studio, not in Chicago), with Helm and fellow Band-member Garth Hudson teaming up with Muddy's touring band, it was a rocking (in the bluesy sense) soulful swansong to the label where he got his start. Muddy covers some songs he knew back when (including Louis Jordan's "Caldonia" and "Let The Good Times Roll"), plays some slide, and generally has a great time on this Grammy-winning album. This record got lost in the shuffle between the collapse of Chess Records and the revival of Muddy's career under the auspices of Johnny Winter, and was forgotten until 1995. The CD contains one previously unreleased number, "Fox Squirrel".
Waters' The Real Folk Blues and More Real Folk Blues, combined here onto one CD, were not exactly random collections of tracks – the quality was too consistently high for them to just have been picked out of a hat. Still, it was a pretty arbitrary grouping of items that he recorded between 1947 and 1964. In fact, they hail from throughout his whole stint at Chess, virtually; at the time these albums were first issued, though, all of the material on More Real Folk Blues was from the late '40s and early '50s. They didn't exactly concentrate on his most well-known songs, but they didn't entirely neglect them either, including "Mannish Boy," "Walking Thru the Park," "The Same Thing," "Rollin' & Tumblin' Part One," "She's Alright," and "Honey Bee," amongst somewhat more obscure selections. So ultimately, this disc's usefulness depends on your fussiness as a collector – if it's the only Waters you ever pick up, you'll still have a good idea of his greatness, and if you don't mind getting some tracks you might already have on more avowedly best-of sets, you'll probably hear some stuff you don't already have in your collection.
The title is a bit of a ringer, since this isn't a collaborative effort in any way, shape, or form. Muddy & the Wolf contains a half-dozen live Muddy Waters tracks with backing from Mike Bloomfield, Paul Butterfield, and Otis Spann, the material culled from the Fathers & Sons sessions. The set also features tracks by Howlin' Wolf from his London sessions with Eric Clapton and Ringo Starr. File under "just OK."