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King Bee

Muddy Waters

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Album Review

King Bee was the last album Muddy Waters recorded. Coming last in a trio of triumphant studio outings, and produced by Johnny Winter, it is also a mixed bag — literally. During the sessions for King Bee, Waters, his manager, and his band were all in dispute over money. According to the liner notes by guitarist Bob Margolin, who was the guitarist for the Muddy Waters Blues Band, the conflict arose form Waters' health being on the wane and him playing less. The bandmembers wanted more money for the fewer gigs they did play in order to make ends meet. Ultimately a split occurred and the band quit. Because of the tensions in the studio preceding the split,Winter felt the sessions had not produced enough solid material to yield an entire album. He subsequently filled out King Bee with outtakes from the Hard Again sessions. For the listener, King Bee is a leaner and meaner record. None of the good-time exuberance present on the previous two outings is present here. This is blues, direct and immediate, it's a snarling, growling album. And it's true the band appears to be a bit stilted on some of these tracks, but it's still a solid, wonderful record. The title track, "Mean Old Frisco," "Sad Sad Day," and "I Feel Like Going Home," are all solid, razor-sharp blues with killer ensemble work (with Margolin, Winter, Guitar Junior, Jerry Portnoy, Pinetop Perkins, Calvin Jones, Willie "Big Eyes" Smith, and Charles Calmese in the band how could it sound anything short of awesome?) as well as Waters in fine voice. The Sony Legacy issue features completely remastered sound and Margolin's candid notes, but it also hosts two bonus tracks from the King Bee sessions that Winter didn't see fit to release the first time. There's a redo of "I Won't Go Down," a cut from the '50s that Waters sings in his lower baritone roar, and "Clouds in My Heart," a deep, long, sad blues that is one of the great unearthed treasures in Waters catalog. This cut alone with all of its deep emotion and the sound of a band trying to hold the storm of emotions in check and failing is a masterpiece and one of the most amazing blues tunes of the last 30 years. While King Bee may have been considered last and least of Waters' Columbia albums, it is more than worth reconsidering.

Biography

Born: 04 April 1915 in Rolling Fork, MS

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s

Muddy Waters was the single most important artist to emerge in post-war American blues. A peerless singer, a gifted songwriter, an able guitarist, and leader of one of the strongest bands in the genre (which became a proving ground for a number of musicians who would become legends in their own right), Waters absorbed the influences of rural blues from the Deep South and moved them uptown, injecting his music with a fierce, electric energy and helping pioneer the Chicago Blues style that would come...
Full bio