MAGIC SAM BLUES BAND West Side Soul (6 Spices)
This debut album by Chicago blues singer and guitarist Magic Sam, originally released in 1967, is surprisingly cheerful and upbeat given its genre. It’s not hard to imagine opening track “That’s All I Need” becoming a contemporary hit for Marvin Gaye, for instance, and the sleevenotes are at pains to point out how Magic Sam’s music cross-pollinates the blues with Memphis soul and Motown pop.
“West Side Soul” mixes Sam’s own compositions with covers of works by B.B. King, John Lee Hooker and Robert Johnson, with no dip in quality discernible. Given his roots “Sweet Home Chicago” is an almost mandatory inclusion, and overall the atmosphere is agreeably good timey, so much so that the borderline nastiness of “I Don’t Want No Woman” stands out in even sharper relief.
The first reissue I’ve encountered from Dutch label 6 Spices (whose logo looks uncannily like a filled Trivial Pursuit wedge), “West Side Soul” sounds bright and distorted, a sonic world away from Analogue Productions’ astonishing work on Junior Wells’ “Hoodoo Man Blues”, an album originally released contemporaneously on the same label (Delmark). Nevertheless, it’s entirely possible that “West Side Soul” has always sounded like that.