Saturday, July 21, 2012

Magic Sam Live in Berkeley in 1969

With a small body of studio recordings augmented by live recordings, a new CD of club performances by the legendary Magic Sam is certain to be warmly received by West Side Chicago blues lovers. 17 performances (Nearly 80 minutes of music) from Mandrake’s in Berkeley, California are made available on Live 1969 - Raw Blues on the Rock Beat label. These July, 1969 performances date are five months before his passing, and give a strong display of the blues world’s loss. I believe Sam’s legendary Ann Arbor Blues Festival performance was shortly thereafter. On these club recordings Magic Sam was backed by Bruce Barlow (later with Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen) on bass and Sam Lay on drums. These were the same musicians that were with Sam at his legendary Ann Arbor Blues Festival appearance.

Songs include familiar items of his repertoire from his Cobra recordings and his Delmark albums such as All You Love, J. B. Lenoir’s Mama Talk To Your Daughter, Willie Cobb’s You Don’t Love Me, Junior Parker’s I Feel So Good, Bobby Bland’s I Don’t Want No Woman, Freddie King’s instrumental San-Ho-Zay, and his own instrumental Looking Good. Less familiar material includes renditions of B.B. King’s I Got Papers On You, and You Done Lost Your Good Thing, as well as Albert Collins’ Tremble, and Freddie King’s Just Pickin’.

There are some minor variations from his recordings such as in the guitar accompaniment on You Don’t Love Me, which is a bit simpler than the “Black Magic” rendition. On I Feel So Good, and Looking Good, the tempo goes into warp drive while Sam avoids sounding frenzied. The performance of “”I Got Papers On you Baby” is representative of the intensity he invested his performances with.

The album closes with a fiery Sweet Home Chicago. It was Sam’s recording and performances of this perhaps had a role in making it the blues anthem it has become. The accompanying booklet includes Mark A. Humphrey’s astute overview of the music and sam’s career and legacy. Sound is not high fidelity but not terrible with the power of his searing guitar and soaring vocals evident. Magic Sam’s Live 1969 - Raw Blues, undoubtedly will be on many lists of the best blues releases of 2012. The music is that good.

This was a purchase from, although it should be readily available from better retailers.

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