Saturday, June 04, 2011

Wonderful New Rerelease of Magic Sam's Classic "West Side Soul"

Magic Sam lived a relatively brief life, yet his influence on blues since can be heard in the music played today. Samuel Maghett had recorded for Cobra and other labels before Delmark got him in the studio to record his first album “West Side Soul.” That recording was one of the Top Ten Blues Desert Island Discs when I compiled the list in “Living Blues.” Delmark has rereleased this classic album, going back to the original analog mix from Stu Black, who engineered the original session. The present release is in a digipak case and reproduces the original liner notes as well as adds Don Wilcock’s appreciation and photographs of Sam from Bill Lindemann.

For this album, Sam was backed by a band that included Mighty Joe Young on rhythm guitar, Per Notini (Stockholm Slim) on piano, Earnest Johnson on bass and Odie Payne on drums (Mack Thompson and Odie Payne III appear on three of the selections). There are terrific renditions of Sam’s “All Your Love” and Jimmy McCracklin’s “Every Day and Every Night,” one of the songs that influenced Sam and some of his songs such as “All Your Love”; along with “Feeling Good,” a remake of the Junior Parker Sun classic and Sam’s instrumental “Lookin’ Good.” Both of these latter tunes demonstrate how it is possible to build a hot boogie blues with a rhythmically oriented attack without endless single note runs.

There are moments such as during Little Milton’s “I Found a New Love” and Sam’s flawed cover of the Otis Rush recording (which Willie Dixon wrote), “My Love Will Never Die” where Sam singing employes a bit too much vibrato and sometimes comes off as too high-strung. There is plenty of strong guitar on these tracks, and the latter number is followed by the vigorous rendition of J.B. Lenoir’s “Mama Talk To You Daughter.” It is Sam’s rendition of “Sweet Home Chicago” from this album that likely led to this becoming a staple of the Chicago blues scene. Sam’s recording is one of the two or three indispensable contemporary renditions of this song.

I have been listening to this since purchasing the original vinyl album when it was originally released. I find this new release sounds better than I remember prior digital or analog versions. “West Side Soul” is among the classic contemporary Chicago blues albums, and this new release of it is most welcome.

My review copy was provided by Delmark Records.

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