Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Muddy Waters
Electric Mud

Released 1968 on Capitol
Reviewed by rotwang, 30/03/2004ce

Electric Mud

The way I first heard of this album was reading some old interview of Muddy Waters, where he was complaining that this was his worst album, he felt completely degraded making it, selling out, or tryin to sell out, yadda yadda yadda etc., you can imagine the general scene. Naturally I was immediately thereafter compelled to seek out this hard round black object of potential transcendence: namely, the 1968 "Electric Mud" epic where greedy music moguls tried to shoe-horn our hero into the then burgeoning genre of acid rock. C.f. Jimi, Blue Cheer, The Ron Wray Light Show, circa squalls of sloppily sculptured noise forced by sheer blown-out will into mind-bending, orgasmic hardrock bliss.

Or at least that was the plan:
Get the pre-eminent elder statesman of the blues, trip him out, wind him up, and put him in the studio with the finest acid-rock hacks money could buy. Take Muddy out to a field of flowers and photograph him glaring dubiously out from over a flowing white kaftan, love beads gratuitously strung about the famous leathery neck, his unicorn-like conk of processed hair keeping part of it back in 1954 somehow… if Muddy was down with the peace, the love vibration, could your own ultra-square parents be very far behind? It was close but no cheroot…

Too fucked up for the trad folk blues crowd, too trad folk blues for the fucked up crowd, the record suffered near-abortive sales and was deemed a "failed experiment" by the few that did stop laughing enough to listen to it. But since they were also ignoring “Skip” Spence and The Velvet Underground at the same time, what the fuck did they know?

Trackwise, the big drooler/raver is for sure when Muddy rips into his cover of the Stones' "Let's Spend The Night Together", belting out a hearty, lustful, "DON'T you worry 'bout what's on my mind - I don't wantcha to think about it…" over a wall of overdriven fuzz wailin' guitars that would make Cheech and Chong shit their pants, working in a burgeoning, crunching Lo-Led Zeppelin or Cream-In-A-Can motif just behind the awe-inspiring power-noodling of the twin leads.

This song does extra duty for the entertainment-conscious citizen; you can either fry out on the inherent meta-ridiculousness of the whole thing, or you can appreciate some true hybridized blues-rock. With over-the-top fuzzed and fazed psych-outs on a few of Muddy's more iconic hits, such as "Mannish Boy" and "Hoochie Coochie Man" this record beats the hell out of similar attempt The London Sessions albums, where Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry and other rhythm and blues colossi were paired up with big-ticket talent like, uh, Bill Wyman & Charlie Watts for a series of functional, though hardly inspirational albums…

You can tell they were trying for a perfect studio sound to render their beloved R&B retreads but it's too perfect… you don't get that sense like they're locked up in some cheap, roasting hot garage studio at three o'clock in the morning, running outta smokes, overeager from the "pep" pills and booze, only enough in them to totally go for it that one time…

On the other hand, "Electric Mud" has that raw, ongoing unfinished feel, overblown as it is. Waters' dislike of the project is well documented, and the probability that he had no more than one take in him, even due purely to disgust and mendacity, is high. Whatever the creative mindset here, the tension created by the classic square peg in a round hole paradigm drives this album to its own dimension of excellence.

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