Another release by The Rolling Stones. The band is really digging into its archives in the past few years. New songs are hard to come by, but fans are treated to some real goodies. (Read an overview up to this spring here.) Except the BBC sessions which are still not released for whatever reason. I had a tape somewhere in the 80ties, with great blues covers, never on record, from a radio show. And after I wrote the concept text to this DVD review, the band has even performed live for the first time in five years,
Checkerboard Lounge was Buddy Guy's blues club in southside Chicago. The date is 22 November 1981 and the audience is in for a treat. Whether they know it or not. On stage we see Muddy Waters' band working up a steam with pianist Lovey Lee singing a blues classic to a pumping grove. Exactly the way one expects a good blues outfit to do. The music is propelled forward by the stompin' rhythm. Some nice and fine soloing going on. Then the old master is called on stage, straps on his guitar, sits down on a stool and shows us how its done. An older gentleman, gracefully and with a lot of pleasure playing the songs he's been playing for 30 years. In front of him is a long row of tables and chairs empty, which is strange as the club seems to be packed. And its small and tight. Centre spot reservations?
Muddy shows the audience how slide is played his style. Pure sex, there's no other word for it. We see a sixty six year old man explode into a violent attack of his guitar neck and snares. Screamin' and howlin' in stark contrast to his further, stylish appearance.
During 'Baby please don't go' people move into the empty spots and all of a sudden it's clear who the seats are reserved for. Hardly able to get to their seats the whole Stones entourage moves in, with the exception of the rhythm section. Getting their coats off is a major challenge. It's not for long or Mick Jagger is invited on stage, at first not understanding, but a verse later he's there, desperately trying to adapt his voice to the not fitting key the songs are played in. Keith Richards and Ronny Wood follow. One of Muddy's band's guitarists leaves the stage. Where Jagger usually has a whole arena to run around in, now he has the spot he's standing in, that's it. And it's clearly hard for him to perform in, restricted and confined. Richards is just doing the blues rounds, completely happy in the back ground at some stage playing closely to the rhythm section. The drummer is packed away so far behind everything that we can't even see him most of the time. When asked by Muddy to play a solo, Keith plays this dry sounding meticulously tight solo before stepping back again. Where a blues show man I had never heard of before, Lefty Dizz, tries to grab all the attention (and playing a little sloppy at times), Richards is in the back happy and content.
If there is one political message in this dvd it is in the blatant way Muddy and Mick propagate free marijuana smoking in 'Champagne & reefer'. Quite clear that Muddy does not mind changing the law on that. I may be mistaken but he may be holding one up too.
If the anecdote is true, we may never know, but when the Stones came to Chess to record an EP in 1964, there was a man painting the walls. Muddy Waters. Although it has been denied over and over recently, it may be true as blues was not popular in the U.S. in 1964. Bands like The Rolling Stones brought it back in that year. 17 Years later they paid tribute to one of the greatest electric bluesman and my all time favourite, McKinley Morganfield, a.k.a. Muddy "Mississippi" Waters. He has the centre spot, he calls the shots, playing his music accompanied by four members of the at that time 'Greatest rock and roll band in the world'. Yes, four, as is explained below.
Checkerboard Lounge is a footnote in the Stones' history, probably a, late, highlight for Muddy and friends and great fun to watch how the Stones play with Muddy Waters and band, making music they started out with 20 years before. We see what it was, with the improvising, mistakes, one gets when everything is spontaneous or at least near so, but a monument it is, 31 years down the road. As a bonus we get to hear and see Ian Stewart play his favourite music as he replaces Lovey Lee on piano. Another treat as Stu was always in the back ground. Not so on Checkerboard lounge.
You can order Checkerboard lounge here