Saturday, August 27, 2022

Magic Sam - West Side Soul (1967 us, impressive chicago electric blues, 2011 digipak)

Samuel Maghett was born February 14,1937 on a farm in central Mississippi, eight miles east of Granada. By the time he was thirteen, like most other kids his age, he was doing a full day's work, but found time to start learning how to play the guitar by stretching strings tied to nails driven into a wall in a manner similar to Big Joe Williams' primitive one-string guitar (described in the notes of Delmark's Piney Woods Blues, DL-602).

The Maghett family got its first taste of big-city life when they moved to Chicago in i960 Sam decided he never wanted to live again in the South — the relative freedom of the city life changed his mind once and for all. When he attended Drake elementary school on Chicago's South Side he often took his guitar with him. His classmates used to tease him about it but one morning Sam played before all the students at assembly, caught the fancy of the girls and "went home with a pocketful of telephone numbers."

A year later, while playing his guitar under a tree in his backyard at 27th and Calumet. Sam attracted the attention of a gambler named Cadillac Jake who happened to be walking by Jake encouraged Sam and they were to meet again years later when the gambler had himself become a blues-singer and harmonicaplayer By that time Sam had already formed his first band with Syl Johnson (most recently noted for his recording of Sock It To Me) and Mack Thompson who still plays with Sam on a lot of jobs It was Thompson who nicknamed Magic Sam by rhyming his last name.

Even when still a gambler. Shakey Jake "followed Muddy Waters around" and when he again met Magic Sam in 1954, encouraged him to sing as well as play Up to that time Sam was more interested in playing guitar but, after he overcame the usual initial shyness, he was good enough to make it as an R’n’B-singer in the commercial music world. However, he took great pride in the blues heritage and "decided to stick to the blues." He continued to practice with Shakey Jake and another harp-blower named Blues King and developed his vocal style by singing with a family gospel group, the Morning View Special.

By 1955 Sam was ready to play the blues clubs. One night Jake took him to the 708 Club on East 47th Street where Muddy Waters was playing Jake persuaded Muddy to let Sam sit in for a set after which the owner of the club hired him to follow Muddy's engagement In 1957 he made his first recordings for the Cobra label. Sam recalls that Eli Toscano, the label's owner, had a way of sending the sound through some pipes in a back room and back again to gel just the right amount of reverberation.

After a hitch in the army Sam again recorded for the Chief label in 1960 and 1961, playing clubs on the West and Near North sides. His guitar-playing matured and his voice steadily improved in depth as he concentrated on his singing. He later moved to the Club Alex on West Roosevelt Road where he sometimes doubled with Muddy Waters band He also broadcast frequently on Big Bill Hill's shows on WOPA from the Copacabana. At the time of this recording he was working more frequently opposite Muddy Waters and Howling Wolf at Sylvio's famous blues club at Lake and Kedzie and doing off nights occasionally at Mother Blues on Wells Street His most recent 45's were Al Benson's Crash label in 1966.
by Bill Lindemann

To call West Side Soul one of the great blues albums, one of the key albums (if not the key album) of modern electric blues is all true, but it tends to diminish and academicize Magic Sam's debut album. This is the inevitable side effect of time, when an album that is decades old enters the history books, but this isn't an album that should be preserved in amber, seen only as an important record. Because this is a record that is exploding with life, a record with so much energy, it doesn't sound old. 

Of course, part of the reason it sounds so modern is because this is the template for most modern blues, whether it comes from Chicago or elsewhere. Magic Sam may not have been the first to blend uptown soul and urban blues, but he was the first to capture not just the passion of soul, but also its subtle elegance, while retaining the firepower of an after-hours blues joint. Listen to how the album begins, with "That's All I Need," a swinging tune that has as much in common with Curtis Mayfield as it does Muddy Waters, but it doesn't sound like either -- it's a synthesis masterminded by Magic Sam, rolling along on the magnificent, delayed cadence of his guitar and powered by his impassioned vocals. 

West Side Soul would be remarkable if it only had this kind of soul-blues, but it also is filled with blistering, charged electric blues, fueled by wild playing by Magic Sam and Mighty Joe Young -- not just on the solos, either, but in the rhythm (witness how "I Feel So Good [I Wanna Boogie]" feels unhinged as it barrels along). Similarly, Magic Sam's vocals are sensitive or forceful, depending on what the song calls for. Some of these elements might have been heard before, but never in a setting so bristling with energy and inventiveness; it doesn't sound like it was recorded in a studio, it sounds like the best night in a packed club. 

But it's more than that, because there's a diversity in the sound here, an originality so fearless, he not only makes "Sweet Home Chicago" his own (no version before or since is as definitive as this), he creates the soul-injected, high-voltage modern blues sound that everybody has emulated and nobody has topped in the years since. And, again, that makes it sound like a history lesson, but it's not. This music is alive, vibrant, and vital -- nothing sounds as tortured as "I Need You So Bad," no boogie is as infectious as "Mama, Mama Talk to Your Daughter," no blues as haunting as "All of Your Love." No matter what year you listen to it, you'll never hear a better, more exciting record that year.
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
1. That's All I Need (Magic Sam) - 3:14
2. I Need You So Bad (B.B. King, Sam Ling) - 4:53
3. I Feel So Good (I Wanna Boogie) - 4:43
4. All Of Your Love (Magic Sam, Otis Rush) - 3:47
5. I Don't Want No Woman (Don Robey) - 3:34
6. Sweet Home Chicago (Robert Johnson) - 4:13
7. I Found A New Love (Little Milton, Bob Lyons) - 4:03
8. Every Night and Every Day (Jimmy McCracklin) - 3:07
9. Lookin' Good (Instrumental) (Magic Sam) - 3:13
10.My Love Will Never Die (Willie Dixon) - 4:07
11.Mama Talk To Your Daughter (J.B. Lenoir) - 2:42
12.I Don't Want No Woman (Alternate Take) (Don Robey) - 3:30

*Magic Sam - Vocals, Guitar
*Mighty Joe Young - Guitar
*Stockholm Slim - Piano
*Earnest Johnson - Bass
*Odie Payne - Drums
*Mack Thompson - Bass (only on Tracks 1, 3, 8)
*Odie Payne III – Drums (only on Tracks 1, 3, 8)