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Tango, blues masters share worldly wisdom

Paris, 1972
Paris, 1972
By Muddy Waters

Pablo / Fantasy Records: 1997

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Tangos Del Sur
Tangos Del Sur
By Roberto Goyeneche

Milan Entertainment: 1997

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These reviews first appeared in the August 23, 1997 edition of the American Reporter.

Ask Bob Dole how much the wisdom of age is respected in the United States. In this, the age of the baby boomers, you just can't trust anyone over 60 anymore.

Which is too bad, because while the radio stations are busy playing the latest pabulum from some angst-ridden 20-something whose idea of suffering is a bad case of acne or not being able to find the right size of Doc Martens, two new releases offer tremendous evidence that just maybe there was something to that old belief that age brought a certain wisdom with it.

Now, Muddy Waters just about everybody has heard of. The man practically invented Chicago electric blues – once he coupled an electric amplifier and pickups to his guitar so his Mississippi blues could be heard over the crowd noise in the bars of 1940s Chicago, the music was changed forever.

Among those changes, of course, was the emergence of rock 'n' roll. While Muddy was no rocker – as borne out by the hideous late-'60s experiment "Electric Mud" – his blues certainly swung with an exuberance few rock bands ever matched. (Among those who did was the Rolling Stones, who later said that Muddy's example of continuing to perform his music into his later years convinced them that rock stars need not hang up their leather pants once they reached 40.)

When this album was recorded 25 years ago in Paris, Waters was on top of his art. An established star with a crack combo behind him – Pinetop Perkins on piano, Mojo Buford on harp, Calvin Jones on bass, Louis Myers on guitar and Willie Smith on drums – Waters directs his band like a maestro. Was it his best band? No. His bands of the '50s and early '60s were far more talented. But that didn't matter; like Basie or Ellington, any band with Waters out front was going to give you a performance you wouldn't forget.

There are 10 songs here – some classics from his canon, like "Hoochie Coochie Man," "Got My Mojo Workin'" and "Rollin' 'N' Tumblin'," others lesser-known and fresher for it: "Walking Thru the Park," "County Jail." All are vintage Waters, all newly available.

Not as well known in the U.S. as Waters or even fellow countryman Astor Piazzolla, Roberto Goyeneche is – according to the liner notes of this 1989 album just now being released in the United States, three years after his death – just as beloved and revered in his native Argentina.

By the evidence of his 100th album, that adulation is well-placed. A deeply impassioned singer with a dramatic flair similar to that of Edith Piaf, the tango in Goyeneche's hands becomes as much listening music as dancing score. A salon singer to his core, Goyeneche holds your attention that way few have – put him in company with America's Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra and France's Louis Jordan and Maurice Chevalier.

Goyeneche was 63 when he recorded this album; his singing has the relaxed, easy delivery of a master fully in his element. Like Sinatra (or the criminally underrated Dean Martin, who was one of the best lounge singers ever), Goyeneche tosses off wise asides the way a longtime smoker flicks an ash.

This is the good stuff; serious, contemplative music, perfect to listen to while you watch the swirls trail off the ice in your bourbon or the smoke dance its way from your cigarette to the ceiling.