Hard Again is the twelfth studio album by American blues singer Muddy Waters. It was recorded by producer Johnny Winter.
Released on January 10, 1977, Hard Again was Muddy’s first album on the Blue Sky label after leaving Chess Records, and was well received by critics.
In August 1975, Chess Records was sold to All Platinum Records and became a reissue label only. It was sometime after this when Muddy Waters left the label and he did not record any new studio material until he signed with Johnny Winter’s Blue Sky label in October 1976.
The sessions for Hard Again were recorded across the space of three days. Producing the session was Johnny Winter and engineering the sessions was Dave Still – who previously engineered Johnny’s brother Edgar, Foghat, and Alan Merrill. For the recordings Muddy used his then current touring band of guitarist Bob Margolin, pianist Pinetop Perkins, and drummer Willie “Big Eyes” Smith. Other backing members during the sessions were harmonicist James Cotton, who performed with Muddy at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1960, and bassist Charles Calmese, who performed with both Johnny Winter and James Cotton in the past.
Three of the songs on the album – “Mannish Boy”, “I Want to Be Loved”, and “I Can’t Be Satisfied” – were re-recordings of songs that were previously recorded for Chess Records. One of the songs recorded, “The Blues Had a Baby and They Named It Rock and Roll, Pt. 2”, was co-written by Brownie McGhee and another song, “Bus Driver”, was co-written by T. Abrahamson.
Hard Again peaked at #143 on the Billboard 200, which was his first appearance on the chart since Fathers and Sons in 1969. The album won the Grammy Award for Best Ethnic or Traditional Folk Recording the year of its release. (by wikipedia)
After a string of mediocre albums throughout most of the 1970s, Muddy Waters hooked up with Johnny Winter for 1977’s Hard Again, a startling comeback and a gritty demonstration of the master’s powers. Fronting a band that includes such luminaries as James Cotton and “Pine Top” Perkins, Waters is not only at the top of his game, but is having the time of his life while he’s at it. The bits of studio chatter that close “Mannish Boy” and open “Bus Driver” show him to be relaxed and obviously excited about the proceedings. Part of this has to be because the record sounds so good. Winter has gone for an extremely bare production style, clearly aiming to capture Waters in conversation with a band in what sounds like a single studio room. This means that sometimes the songs threaten to explode in chaos as two or three musicians begin soloing simultaneously. Such messiness is actually perfect in keeping with the raw nature of this music; you simply couldn’t have it any other way. There is something so incredibly gratifying about hearing Waters shout out for different soloists, about the band missing hits or messing with the tempos. Hey this isn’t pop music, it’s the blues, and a little dirt never hurt anybody. The unsung star of this session is drummer Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, whose deep grooves make this record come alive. The five-minute, one-chord “Mannish Boy” wouldn’t be nearly as compelling as it is if it weren’t for Smith’s colossal pocket. Great blues from one of the dominant voices of the genre. (by Daniel Gioffre)
Charles Calmese (bass)
James Cotton (harmonica)
Bob Margolin (guitar)
Pinetop Perkins (piano)
Willie “Big Eyes” Smith (drums)
Muddy Waters (vocals, guitar)
Johnny Winter (guitar, miscellaneous screaming)
01. Mannish Boy (Morganfield/McDaniel/London) 5.24
02. Bus Driver (Morganfield/Abrahamson) 7.48
03. I Want To Be Loved (Dixon) 2.21
04. Jealous Hearted Man (Morganfield) 4.25
05. I Can’t Be Satisfied (Morganfield) 3.31
06. The Blues Had A Baby and They Named It Rock And Roll, Pt. 2 (Morganfield/McGhee) 3.36
07. Deep Down In Florida (Morganfield) 5.27
08. Crosseyed Cat (Morganfield) 6.01
09. Little Girl (Morganfield) 7.07
More Muddy Waters:
McKinley “Muddy Waters” Morganfield (April 4, 1913 or 1915 – April 30, 1983)