Muddy Waters released some amazing albums during the late 50's and into the early 60's, albums that had a profound influence on young white audiences, especially in Europe. Muddy had a primal ferocious sound, that was unrelenting even when the tempo was at a crawl. His live set at Newport in 1960 demonstrates an artist near his creative peak, it also underlines what an incredible live performer he was. His performance at the festival was an important step in his career, it gave him the opportunity to broaden his audience appeal beyond the blues clubs of Chicago where he was the undisputed king.
Muddy was backed by what is really a crack blues band, Otis Spann is on piano, a young James cotton is on harmonica, the sadly underrated Pat Hare was on guitar and the rhythm section was Andrew Stephens on bass and Francis Clay on drums. Muddy opens the show with I Got My Brand On You which to my knowledge was never recorded in the studio. It's a slow burning blues number with James Cotton stretching those notes from his harp, Spann in characteristic fashion plays that funky midnight blues piano. The classic I'm a Hoochie Coochie Man has Muddy at his boastful best, the band locks in tight, James Cotton who has started his career at 17 with Howlin Wolf, plays beautifully alongside Otis, whilst Pat Hare plays those tasteful but enigmatic fills when required. On Baby Please Don't Go Hare and Cotton get into a bit of call and response at the start of the song before Muddy comes in behind a shuffling beat. Whether Muddy was aware of the significance of the concert I'm not sure but you can hear a real intensity in his vocals and that is matched by the band who create a strong and relaxed groove throughout.
Soon Forgotten takes the tempo down and allows the band to show how the slow blues is played, Cotton firing off these solos that drift and float across the song. The foot stomping Tiger In Your Tank has Muddy hollering in almost sanctified tones, giving the crowd a taste of the blues Chicago style. The set closes with an enthusiastic performance of Got My Mojo Working which Muddy will reprise due to audience demand. Otis plays some nice little fills in between Muddy belting out that he is going down to Louisiana to get a mojo hand. This album is an integral part of the classic blues canon that had a huge influence on the next generation of musicians who helped to keep the blues flame alive.