Recorded at the Newport Jazz Festival at Newport, Rhode Island, on the third of July 1960, as the title suggests, this record is probably one of the most consistent blues documents of the past century. Muddy Waters and his fellow musicians that day played a well-balanced roster of songs, including great classic tunes of the father of the Chicago Blues, but also some newer ones in order to amaze the audience a little bit, without causing too much disappointment between the old hardcore fanbase.
A still-rising electric-blues cyclone
Sonically, the album stands as impressive to this day: it’s a quite decorous recording (for its times) of a powerful, robust and groovy gig. The audio is quite clear and all the different layers of the diverse instrumentation come to life. They create a lively blues fresco that it’s impossible to resist: the listener sinks in a still-rising electric-blues cyclone mainly composed of the harsh but still warm vocal phrases and timbre that made Waters a legend.
The commanding drum work of Francis Clay that actually pops up and stands out in the mix, supporting in this way the whole groove of the band, is one that’s capable of constructing at the same time a solid rhythm backbone, emphasized by the intertwining and groovy conversation with the piano riff.
A scenery of burning emotions
The blasting drums are especially present in tunes like I’ve Got My Mojo Working and Got My Mojo Working Pt. 2, where the listener will be finding themself face to face with a flawless percussion execution. It is so accurate and engaging that the drums seem to capture all of the listener’s attention at times. They even prevail over all of the other musical elements due to the aggressive jazzy-style percussion playing that Clay adopted in these songs.
Other notorious tracks like Baby, Please Don’t Go and I’m Your Hoochie-Coochie Man, achieve their momentum through James Cotton‘s clever use of the harmonica. He is able to perfectly blend together the guitar playing of Waters and Pat Hare, with a flamboyant performance that pulls in between the listener. As the minutes run by this blues musical landscape absorbs him: a pure scenery of burning emotions, melancholia, grief, but also lightheartedness and gratitude.
Summing up At Newport 1960, we’re undoubtedly talking about one of the historic records that marked a significant shift regarding the blues genre towards its electric variant, but nonetheless this piece of music remains significant as a testimony of a great ride on sentiments that only some bluesmen can summon.