Saturday, January 09, 2016

Magic Sam - Black Magic

While usually overshadowed by many writers in comparison to the earlier studio album, "West Side Soul," Magic Sam's "Black Magic" is in the opinion of some, including this writer, a better recording. Recorded in Fall 1968, with a superb band including Mighty Joe Young rhythm guitar, Lafayette Leake on piano, Eddie Shaw on tenor sax, Mac Thompson (brother of Jimmy and Syl Johnson) and Odie Payne, Jr. on drums, "Black Magic" is full of Sam's soulful vocals and wonderful guitar playing without any harried frenzied moments (for example the rendition of "Mama Talk to Your Daughter") or sometimes shrill, overwrought vocals ("My Love Will Never Die") that marred the earlier recording.

It is a pleasure to listen again to "Black Magic," in Delmark's new deluxe reissue with new, previously unissued alternate takes included. This release contains the ten selections that were on the original vinyl LP and 1994 CD reissue, six selections that were included on "The Magic Sam Legacy" and two previously unissued alternates. The additional eight tracks include three songs not on the original and alternate takes of four songs ("What Have I Done Wrong" is heard in two alternates).

There are so many pleasures listening to the flow of the music, the relaxed soulful intensity of Sam's vocals and the terrific backing with some solo space for Shaw and Young. Leake was a superb band pianist and Thompson and Payne made a superb rhythm foundation. The album opens with a marvelous take on "Just a Little Bit," the classic Little Willie John number that became a blues standard. He takes us back to his Cobra recordings, reworking "Easy Baby" as well as a take on Lowell Fulson's "It's All Your Fault," that he adapted for many recordings Then there is his wonderful rendition of Willie Cobb's "You Don't Love Me, Baby," followed by a terrific rendition of Freddie King's classic instrumental, "San-Ho-Zay," that is so wonderfully paced as well as played. The standout track remains for this listener Andrew Brown's "You Better Stop," where he tells Leake to "play those ticklish blues for me."

Of the songs not issued on the original album, Sam's reworking of his Cobra single "Everything's Gonna Be All Right, a musical sibling to the Fulson number, stands out along with a slow instrumental "Blues For Odie Payne." The alternate takes are pretty solid in their own respect, although with minor differences in the groove, Sam's vocal or perhaps a sudden end. The accompanying booklet reproduces Jim O'Neal's liner notes from the original release and the 1994 CD reissue, along with liner notes from The Magic Sam legacy" and updated with Bob Koester's own recollections of Sam and the music. This is a most welcome new Deluxe Edition of Delmark's classic blues albums, of which it is one of the finest.

I received my review copy from Delmark. Here is "Just a Little Bit," from Black Magic.

No comments: