Muddy Waters and The Rolling Stones: Live At The Checkerboard Lounge Chicago 1981

Written by July 30th, 2012 at 2:56 pm

Muddy Waters and The Rolling Stones
Live At The Checkerboard Lounge Chicago 1981
(Eagle Rock Entertainment)
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Guitarist, songwriter and singer Muddy Waters (1913-1983), long known as the “father of modern Chicago blues,” inspired the 1960s Blues Rock movement in the UK. Perhaps foremost among those British bands, Waters mentored The Rolling Stones. On November 22, 1981, The Stones took a night off from the Tattoo You tour to hear Waters play at Buddy Guy’s Checkerboard Lounge in Chicago. Delighting the lucky audience, Waters called The Stones onstage to jam. Never before released, this DVD/CD combo provides a front row seat to watch Waters (vocals, Fender Telecaster) with a full band, plus Mick Jagger (vocals), Keith Richards (guitar), Ronnie Wood (guitar) and Ian Stewart (the band’s touring pianist) celebrating the joy of being men. Holy Smokes, did someone suddenly grab a camera and preserve all this for us?

As Waters sings “Baby Please Don’t Go,” The Stones’ entourage sits ringside and the audience starts buzzing. Waters easily regains their attention but can’t resist calling out Jagger’s name, bringing him onstage. As his mentor watches with pleasure, Jagger sings in the Delta Blues style Waters taught him. Richards is handed a guitar. Waters listens to his riffs, nodding approval. Wood borrows a guitar and joins in. Waters, Richards and Wood take it home, three guitars blazing in a dark room.

Waters brags about his “Hoochie Coochie Man” reputation while Jagger testifies like a Brooklyn audience at a Spike Lee movie. Waters happily rocks back and forth as Jagger sings, “I’m a man/ I’m a full-grown man/ I’m a man/ I’m a natural-born lover man.” Jagger, 38, and Waters, 68, are on the same page, same stage, two ageless men. Wood’s riffs express his pleasure as Waters sings about a “Long Distance Call.” Richards and Wood have Buddy Guy’s back on “Got My Mojo Workin,’” as he chalks up temporary impotence to the wrong partner. Jagger and Waters proclaim that “Champagne and Reefer” should be equally legal.

Waters would pass away less than two years later. Here, he relies on a tight fraternity of ten: Lefty Dizz and Buddy Guy (vocals, guitar); Junior Wells (harmonica, vocals); George Mojo Buford (harmonica); Lovie Lee (piano); Earnest Johnson (bass); Ray Allison (drums); John Primer (guitar); Rick Kreher (guitar); and Nick Charles (bass). The sheer numbers might have kept this video, until now, available only in bootleg versions. Video is newly edited; no need to watch musicians swapping places between songs. Audio is newly remastered with DTS Surround Sound, Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital Stereo, by Bob Clearmountain (The Who; Bruce Springsteen; Stones’ singles “Miss You” and “Out of Tears.”)

There’s an audio CD of 11 songs, a 16-song DVD with three bonus tracks (from “Hampton Coliseum, 1981”), and an eight page booklet with Robert Gordon’s insightful notes. (Vinyl fans, watch for the September 2012 release of the DVD/2LP set.) But was this concert an accidental, spontaneous event that just happened to be captured for posterity? Two camera operators are seen shouldering professional equipment for what is clearly a three camera shoot. This event and the video were planned, and thank goodness for that.

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