"King Bee" is the final studio album by legendary blues artist Muddy Waters, released in 1981. The album was produced by Johnny Winter, who likewise contributed guitar work to the tracks. "King Bee" features a mix of initial songs by Waters and cover versions of blues standards, all carried out in Muddy Waters' signature Chicago blues style. Though it was not as effective as Waters' previous albums, "King Bee" remains an effective testament to the long-lasting talent of one of the most prominent blues artists of perpetuity.
Background and Recording
After Muddy Waters' health began to decrease in the late 1970s, he was approached by guitarist and producer Johnny Winter, a long time fan who had actually formerly produced Waters' effective resurgence album "Hard Again" in 1977. Winter was identified to produce a fitting swan song for the blues legend, and the pair went on to tape 2 more albums together: "I'm Ready" in 1978, and "King Bee" in 1981.
The recording of "King Bee" happened at the famous Chess Records studios in Chicago, with Waters' longtime bands members associated with the session. The album includes contributions from a variety of prominent blues musicians, including harmonica player Jerry Portnoy, guitarist Bob Margolin, and pianist Pinetop Perkins.
Track Listing and Music
"King Bee" includes ten tracks, with a mixture of both initial tunes by Muddy Waters and cover variations of blues standards. The album opens with a high-energy rendition of Slim Harpo's "I'm a King Bee", showcasing Waters' hallmark slide guitar technique and powerful vocals.
Other standout original tracks on the album consist of "Mean Old Frisco Blues", a slow-burning tale of distress and betrayal; "Champagne & Reefer", a raunchy, unapologetic ode to vice featuring a few of the rawest blues guitar deal with the record; and "Forever Lonely", a poignant ballad that sees Waters assessing his life and career.
The album also features a variety of blues classics like "Deep Down in Florida", "Sad, Sad Day", and "No Escape from the Blues", each of which is given a distinct Muddy Waters twist. Throughout the album, Waters' guitar playing is sharp and emotive, while his vocals keep a deep-rooted connection to the blues custom.
Reception and Legacy
Though the album did not accomplish the very same commercial success as "Hard Again" or "I'm Ready", "King Bee" was typically favored by critics, who praised the raw, genuine blues sound the album caught. Nevertheless, some critics felt that the record was slightly irregular, with certain tracks coming off as mere filler.
Regardless of any viewed defects, "King Bee" still stands as an important and lively testament to Muddy Waters' long-lasting talent and impact, at a time when a lot of his contemporaries were fading into obscurity. Muddy Waters died just two years after the album's release, adding a bittersweet poignancy to the record.
In later years, the album would be mentioned as an impact by a variety of younger blues musicians including Stevie Ray Vaughan, who often covered "I'm a King Bee" in concert. "King Bee" remains a fitting conclusion to the taped work of among the most iconic and crucial figures in the history of blues music.
Artist: Muddy Waters
Muddy Waters, the Father of Chicago Blues, who inspired generations of musicians with his electrifying Delta blues style. Read quotes & more.
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