One of the most polarizing blues albums of all time, there is no middle ground when it comes to Muddy Waters’ “Electric Mud”, people either love it or hate it, and either perspective is understandable depending on how you approach it. In 1968, when this album came out, Waters’ album sales were lagging. Meanwhile, artists like Cream and Jimi Hendrix were making big bucks playing music similar to Muddy Waters, only dressed up in the psychedelic garb of the day. Enter some overreaching producers hoping to make Waters more popular with the hippy crowd, and you get this odd album that has Muddy fronting a psychedelic rhythm section borrowed from avant-RnB group, Rotary Connection. With the use of Connection’s musicians, you get one of the best psychedelic guitarists this side of Hendrix himself, Pete Cosey, a man who would eventually go on to join Miles Davis in the mid-70s. Considering Cosey’s presence on here can help determine the best perspective on this album, this may not be Muddy Water’s best vocal performance, but it is a great slice of Cosey’s funky guitar work, a guitarist who was very under-recorded during his often underground career.
The music on here is wild and nasty funk driven blues rock, much more loose than Cream, and more loose than Hendrix’s studio albums too. Think of a cross between early Funkadelic, Sly Stone, Iggy and the Stooges and the MC5 and you might get an idea what this throw together band sounds like. Its no wonder long time Waters fans were turned off when they heard this. The album opens unevenly too, with two funk driven numbers that produce rhythms that are at odds with Muddy’s more blues groove oriented vocals, but after these two missteps, the band and Muddy settle down and start working together better in more of a blues-rock context. The cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Lets Spend the Night Together” is a barely recognizable psychedelic monster with Muddy throwing away any lyrics that don’t fit him. Most of the rest of the cuts on “Electric Mud” work well too, with some exceptions. “Tom Cat” is a good jam, but would have been better without the noodling off key soprano saxophone, and the classic “Mannish Boy” loses some of its primal power to a tempo that is a little too fast.
Apparently Muddy Waters didn't care for this album, which is understandable since it really doesn't sound like its his, but it has been said that Hendrix was enthusiastic about it. It was always obvious that Cosey was influenced by Jimi, but its interesting to find out that the influence went the other way too.