THE STRAIGHT DOPE:
The blues are made of stories. Stories of hardship and also stories of joy. That's why the
greatest blues musicians are not the ones who can simply play; Eric Clapton is not a bluesman
and he'll be the first to agree. In the century or so since blues music was born the greatest
bluesmen (and occasional women) have been the storytellers: Charley Patton, Robert Johnson,
Bessie Smith, Son House, Howlin' Wolf, BB King. Even surrounded by such competition, however,
if you were to claim that Muddy Waters was the greatest bluesman to ever walk the Earth a lot
of people would probably agree. Muddy Waters: Can't Be Satisfied is an interesting, well-made, too-short biography of Waters, who helped bring the blues out of the Mississippi Delta and into the clubs of Chicago without abandoning the roots of the music.
Muddy Waters: Can't Be Satisfied is the work of Robert Gordon, who also wrote the book of the same name. Although the book may have an edge over the film (which runs less than an hour long) in terms of sheer detail, there is no question that the story comes alive with footage, both musical and personal. Muddy Waters (whose real name was McKinley Morganfield) is shown throughout his life, from handsome young rascal to mischievous old-timer, a Cheshire cat smirk on his lips. There is also a good deal of interesting period footage from juke joints and rural Southern streets.
of course, the best parts of the film are the musical performances. While the film doesn't contain any complete performances, which is a shame, classic footage is shown of "Mannish Boy," "Hoochie Coochie Man," and the title track. Muddy Waters' smooth growl stands at odds with the rasp of Howlin' Wolf and the eerie whine of Robert Johnson, but is no less powerful. He was also able to articulate the feelings in his music with many non-lyrical sounds, moans and yelps.
The full-frame video is acceptable. The majority of the memorable material consists of archival footage of varying quality. Nothing extraordinary but the transfer is clean.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio is also fine. Waters' music was never recorded for pristine fidelity but it always had a deep groove. The soundtrack here helps by being simple, to the point and clean.
A short collection of outtakes from the documentary is enlightening but still doesn't contain any full performances.
A short presentation that seems overpriced for the content, Muddy Waters: Can't Be Satisfied is definitely worth a look for fans of the man and his music. It short-changes the audience on the music, however, by never letting Muddy finish a tune.