Today feels like a bit of a travel back in time, earlier than 1967, as we take a listen to Chicago blues artist Magic Sam. Interestingly enough, with all of the blues legends we have covered already, his 1967 album “West Side Soul” is the #2 rated blues album of all time by digitaldreamdoors.com. Like many of the blues legends of the 20th century, he is a singer and guitarist, but the focus for me, much more so than many of his peers, is on the vocal performance, even though his guitar playing is really solid.
I was not previously that familiar, if at all, with Magic Sam, so this was a new and welcome path for me. Ratings can be debated endlessly, but I really did enjoy this album a lot, and it had a bit more of a retro sound that Albert King’s album from the same year. Less polished in production, with more of a raw and rough edge, his voice is also distinctive in a higher range that has a dash of soul blended in with his traditional blues appeal. The album is a mix of original tunes and notable covers. “All of Your Love” is probably his best original song on the album; the vocal on this is just really powerful and intense. In terms of cover tunes, the stand out is a rousing version of Robert Johnson’s “Sweet Home Chicago”. Magic Sam, aka Sam Maghett, also mixes in B.B. King and Willie Dixon from the traditional blues catalog.
Like many artists, Magic Sam sadly met a very young and early demise, passing away not long after this album was released at the age of 32 from a heart attack. The more I listen to him, the more taken I am with his powerful and distinctive voice. The closest I can come to describing is if Sam Cooke and James Brown merged voices to sing passionate blues. It is very sad he didn’t live to reach his full potential along his contemporaries of the day like B.B. King and Buddy Guy, and this is yet another hidden treasure I’m grateful for finding along the way.