Thursday, June 21, 2012

Magic Sam Had The Magic Touch

One of the blues artists I discovered when I first started listening to blues was Samuel Maghett, better known as Magic Sam. The release of West Side Soul on Delmark was quite an important album and highly acclaimed. Alas Sam died only a few years after despite the promise of a career that might have taken off. The following review of some club recordings appeared in the April, 1993 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 180) and I have made minor stylistic revisions. I likely received a review copy from the label. It is out-of-print but is available used. It should be noted that this was released originally on vinyl on the Dutch Black Magic label around 1984 and they likely issued it on CD as well.

Black Top’s release of Magic Touch makes available a live club recording by the legendary Magic Sam that was originally on the Black Magic label. Recorded at Sylvio’s (Howlin’ Wolf’s home base and it is Wolf that introduces Sam and Shakey Jake) by the Belgium blues and jazz collector George Adins, it complements the recordings from the Alex Club that Delmark issued on Magic Sam Live and is valuable as additional documentation of him.

Magic Sam was joined by Shakey Jake Harris on harp and vocals on six of the fourteen selections, the bass of Mack Thompson, and the drums of Odie Payne. These are location recordings, and not hi-fi. The sound on this is better than on the Delmark, Adins source recordings likely being better. However, the editing is not as clean as the Delmark, so instead of the banter with the audience between songs on the Delmark, tracks get cut off abruptly as the song ends and the applause begins.

The music is extraordinary, and there are some songs that Sam didn’t record elsewhere including Just Like a Fish, Dirty Work Going On, and I Just Can’t Please You. Shakey Jake sounds as good as he ever did on record on She’s Nineteen Years Old, and Juke. Thompson and Payne would play on Sam’s Delmark studio recordings, and add a tight, bottom to the music.

Sam’s studio albums, West Side Soul, and Black Magic, are the logical places for persons unfamiliar with Magic Sam. Those hooked on his music will certainly want this and the Delmark live recordings. This is great stuff that shows why forty odd years later he is still revered by the musicians he worked with and blues enthusiasts everywhere.

Here is the cover of the original Black Magic release of this material.

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