You like blues? Awesome. You’ll like this. If you don’t know Muddy Waters already, you should. Don’t really know how you can claim to be a fan of blues and not at least know this guy’s name. Great stuff on this album. I would definitely listen to this outside this project.
At Newport 1960 is a live album by Muddy Waters performed at Newport Jazz Festival in Newport, Rhode Island with his backing band, consisting of Otis Spann (piano, vocals), Pat Hare (guitar), James Cotton (harmonica), Andrew Stevens (bass) and Francis Clay(drums), on July 3. Waters’ performances across Europe in the 50s and at Newport helped popularize blues to broader audience, especially to whites. The album is often said to be one of the first blues live albums.
The album was released in the US on November 15 that year, featuring eight songs, from “I Got My Brand On You” to “Goodbye Newport Blues”. In 2001, record label Chess released a remastered version, which includes three bonus tracks recorded in Chicago in June. Although At Newport 1960 never charted, it received critical acclaim and was influential for future bands. It was ranked on several music lists, including at number 348 on Rolling Stones “The 500 Greatest Albums of all Time” in 2003.
After releasing his debut album The Best of Muddy Waters (1958), a greatest hits collection, and Sings Big Bill Broonzy (1960), a collection of covers of songs by blues musician Big Bill Broonzy, Waters decided to perform at the live concert Newport Jazz Festival.Waters had already been a well-known blues musician across Europe and the United States in the 50s. His successful performances with his electric blues band, consisting of half brother Otis Spann (piano, vocals), Pat Hare (guitar), James Cotton (harmonica), Andrew Stevens (bass) and Francis Clay (drums), increasingly popularized the blues in the mainstream music of United States and Europe, especially to the white audience.
The gig was scheduled on July 3, Sunday afternoon. The day before, performances by Ray Charles and singing group Lambert, Hendricks and Ross were met with crowd rushes. About 300 drunken hipsters made an uproar during Charles’ performance caused by poor police security. The policemen attacked with teargas and water hoses. The riots became so out of control that the National Guardwas called in at midnight to calm the crowd. When Waters and his band arrived on the scheduled day, they intended to drive back on the next day, until driver James Cotton saw John Lee Hooker standing at a corner, his guitar on his back without a guitar case. Cotton said Hooker should get into his car to get the musicians out of harm’s way. At the same time, the city council decided to cancel the concert, but concert promoter George Wein convinced them when he said that the United States Information Agency (USIA) planned to film the festival to teach the American culture in other countries.
Before Waters’ performance, his band backed Otis Spann, who was the band leader, and John Lee Hooker. About 17 P.M., Waters entered the stage, wearing black, while the rest of the band white formal dresses. At Newport 1960 opens with then-unreleased “I Got My Brand on You”, which was recorded one month prior, and “(I’m Your) Hoochie Coochie Man“, both written by Willie Dixon. Next are the Big Joe Williams cover “Baby Please Don’t Go“, Oden‘s “Soon Forgotten”, Dixon’s “Tiger in Your Tank” and Broonzy’s “I Feel So Good”. During the latter he performed hip swings, and during “I’ve Got My Mojo Working“, which he played a second time, he performed Elgin movements, then a foxtrot with Cotton. At the end he did a jitterbug; when he returned to the microphone and performed the move a second time, he received massive cheers from the audience. At the end of this song, every bluesman gathered at the stage to perform medleys of blues standards. Jazz poet and directorate of Newport Langston Hughes spontaneously wrote a finishing song, the slow “Goodbye Newport Blues”, this time Spann as singer, as Waters was too exhausted to perform.
The album was released in the United States in November 15, the same year they performed their concert in Newport, on the MCA label, and produced by Leonard Chess. A CD version was released in 1987, but one bootleger already released a different version in the early 90s. It was digitally remastered in 2001 by MCA, with a significantly better quality in bass and singing. The remastered version contains three bonus tracks recorded in Chicago in June 1960.
The album cover depicts Muddy Waters at the Newport Jazz Festival holding a semi-acoustic guitar. When photographer Burt Goldblattasked Waters to pose for the cover he left his Fender Telecaster, which he played during the concert, on the stage and instead took friend John Lee Hooker‘s semi-acoustic guitar.
|All About Jazz||(favorable)|
At Newport 1960 received positive critical reception. It was generally praised for the powerful and fizzy performance by Waters and band. Cub Koda from Allmusic wrote that Waters “lays it down tough and cool with a set that literally had [the audience] dancing in the aisles by the set close”. Furthermore, he remarked that the opening track, “I Got My Brand On You”, “positively burns the relatively tame”. Matthew Oshinsky praised in 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die the “merciless refrain” in “Hoochie Coochie Man” and the “unvarnished moaning” in “Baby Please Don’t Go”. He also enjoyed Muddy’s powerful baritone, James Cotton’s harmonica playing, Otis Spann’s “pub piano”-like playing and the overall danceable music.
Chris Smith favoured in 101 Albums That Changed Popular Music Waters’ “growly vocal presentation, energetic stage presence, and electrifying (literally and figuratively) performances.” The album was ranked at number 348 on Rolling Stones “The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time” in 2003, where the band’s playing was described as “tough, tight and in the groove” and James Cotton’s harmonica jams as “a special treat.” Critics called the album in Vibe ’s “100 Essential Albums of the 20th Century” “immortal.” The album was mentioned in The Rough Guide to Blues 100 Essential CDs.
Many future musicians and bands, such as The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, AC/DC and Led Zeppelin, were influenced by his electric sound and used this and his greatest hits album as templates to create a hard rock sound. At Newport 1960 is one of the first blues live albums.