Review: Muddy Waters and The Rolling Stones Live at The Checkerboard Lounge, Chicago 1981 DVD/CD (2012)

He stole my music but he gave me my name.”
— Muddy Waters on Mick Jagger

Image courtesy of Eagle Vision Ltd., a division of Eagle Rock Entertainment Ltd.

On a cold Winter night, November 22, 1981, the Rolling Stones arrived in Chicago.  Smack in the middle of their North American ‘Tattoo You’ tour, just prior to playing 3 nights at the Rosemont Horizon, they paid their respects to their idol Muddy Waters by stopping by Buddy Guy’s Chicago ‘juke joint’ the Checkerboard Lounge, to see the legendary bluesman perform.  It didn’t take long before Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood and Ian Stewart were joining Waters on stage.  Later, Buddy Guy and Lefty Dizz joined them onstage, too.

This monumental and historic event was thankfully captured on camera.  Restored from the original footage, with sound mixed and mastered by the legendary Bob Clearmountain, this official release (after many years of bootleg tapes circulating about) by Eagle Vision is a true must have for all fans of Chicago blues, Muddy Waters and the Rolling Stones.  Eagle Vision outdid themselves here: giving it both nice packaging and a very reasonable price. The DVD itself is under $15.00, and the combo pack with the audio CD, with 11 of the 13 numbers, is only five bucks more.  The camera work is excellent, with nice close ups that really allow the viewer to enjoy Waters and Jagger riffing with each other.

The whole show lasts 106 minutes, including two numbers up front by Waters’ band- without the ‘Hootchie Cootchie Man’ himself. Waters sings his classics and plays on some of them, although he did put away his guitar on some numbers. Jagger, Richards and Wood were on stage with Waters for quite a lot of songs, with both Waters and Jagger leaving the stage for two songs by guitarist/vocalist Lefty Dizz (though Wood and Richards remain on stage). With the inclusion of Junior Wells on that small stage it was one big musical event, to say the least.

The performances are quite loose-at some points rather chaotic-as the musicians jump on and off the low stage with tables right up to the edge. At other times the music is really tight and nothing less than brilliant. When the Stones showed up and began jamming, the band definitely picked up the pace, especially the rhythm section which did a tremendous job of  ‘roping in’ the overall sound that night, preventing it from spiraling out of control.

During part of the show, Mick and Muddy take a seat to allow Jr. Wells, Buddy Guy and Lefty Dizz to take turns at center stage. Dizz, apparently more than a bit tipsy, ends his feature song standing precariously at the very edge of the stage, flailing his arms around, saying (or singing) something, without a microphone, to the audience . You can’t actually hear what he’s saying, but whatever he said to the audience (and the band) elicited reactions ranging from amusement to horror, lol! Wells had to take control of the stage at that point, literally pushing Dizz off stage.

It’s the inclusion of such spontaneous, unplanned sequences which gives one such an intimate, “I was there” feel while watching, yet avoids casting a pallor on the rest of the show. Add to this the simply first rate guitar playing (featuring some stunning solos) from Wood, Richards, Waters, Guy, and the guitarists in Muddy’s band, and you have an evening of blues music that was/is truly unforgettable.

Sadly, Muddy was in poor health at this time in his life (he passed away a mere two years afterward), and he spent most of the show sitting on a stool on stage. But when the band ripped into Mannish Boy, Muddy couldn’t keep in his seat: he was up and jumping around like a young man again!  It was at that pivotal point in the show that one could see a glimpse of the power that Waters had once possessed in his prime.

The package includes 16 tracks on the DVD, eleven of which are featured on the CD. The DVD adds two bonus performances. The bonus features are cuts from the Hampton Coliseum 1981 show and are interesting in their own right. The DVD does not include the whole show, and the songs are edited to take out the dead spots when musicians are going on/off stage, etc.  It also includes a well-assembled 8 page booklet that includes photos and an essay by Robert Gordon.

In his recent autobiography, Keith Richards describes how early in their career the Stones complained about playing rock and roll when their true goal was to be the best blues band in London. In this terrific DVD/CD compilation one can argue that the ‘passing of the torch’ so to speak was successfully made between generations. The Stones’ awe and admiration of ‘the master’ is clearly evident, and Muddy’s smile is genuine as he beams with obvious pride at his musical ‘children.’ As the old saying goes:the blues had a baby and they named it rock & roll!

Performers: Muddy Waters (vocals, guitar); Mick Jagger (vocals); Keith Richards (guitar); Ronnie Wood (guitar); Ian Stewart (piano); Buddy Guy (vocals, guitar); Lefty Dizz (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); Nick Charles (bass)

Track Listing: 1) Sweet Little Angel 2) Flip Flop And Fly 3) Muddy Waters Introduction 4) You Don t Have To Go 5) Country Boy 6) Baby Please Don’t Go 7) Hoochie Coochie Man 8) Long Distance Call 9) Mannish Boy 10) Got My Mojo Working 11) Next Time You See Me 12) One Eyed Woman 13) Baby Please Don’t Go (Instrumental) 14) Blow Wind Blow 15) Champagne & Reefer

 

The deluxe edition: LP, DVDs and CD. Image courtesy of Eagle Vision Ltd.

 

 

Shirley Pena

About Shirley Pena

A native of Southern California, Shirley Pena began her career as a music journalist over a decade ago, writing for her websites "Stars In My Eyes:the Girlhowdy Website" and "La Raza Rock!" and progressed to creating various fan sites on Yahoo, including the first for New Zealand singer/songwriter Tim Finn. From there, she became a free agent, arranging online interviews for Yahoo fan clubs with various music artists (Andy White, John Crawford, Debora Iyall, John Easdale, etc.). She also lent her support in creating and moderating a number of Yahoo fan clubs for various music artists from the 1990s-today. As a music journalist, Shirley Pena has contributed to a number of magazines (both hard copy and online), among them:Goldmine, American Songwriter, the Fresno Examiner, The Blacklisted Journalist and UK-based Keyboard Player (where she was a principal journalist). A self-confessed "fanatic" of 1960s "British Invasion" bands, Classic Rock and nostalgic "Old Hollywood ", she also keeps her finger on the pulse of current trends in music, with a keen eye for up and coming artists of special merit. Shirley Pena loves Los Angeles, and is thrilled to join the writing staff of The Los Angeles Beat!
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