LIVE AT THE AVANT GARDE - JUNE 22 1968
This is just the latest of a growing number of live recordings featuring Magic Sam that have surfaced over recent years. While the sound quality of these are variable, the performances have been uniformly excellent. Thankfully we get the best of both worlds here; a committed and energetic performance from a top-drawer Chicago blues trio and a sound that captures the atmosphere of the intimate setting.
Not that Jim Charne, who engineered and produced these recordings is having any of it. In the informative notes to this release, Charne writes that the recording equipment was primitive and the layout of the room meant there was no place to put the tape machine except against the bandstand. The only thing he had to compensate for the limitations was his experience of working the room and knowing where to place microphones to best effect. The rest was 'plug in, let it roll, and hope for the best'.
Personally I think he is being unduly modest as what he has captured, which to me is delicious and delirious late 60s Chicago blues at its best. Across each of the 16 excellent tracks, Big Mojo Elem's bass throbs, Bob Richey's drums swing and Magic Sam's guitar stings and stabs.
And, as always, Sam's voice is at turns tender and powerful on a set that mixes his own classics (such as the soulful That's All I Need, the propulsive instrumental Lookin' Good and funky You Belong To Me) alongside some great cover versions such as Still A Fool, Don't Want No Woman, That's All Right, Hoochie Coochie Man and (of course) All Your Love.
Some 45 years after his premature, unexpected and fatal heart attack at the tender age of 32 (a mere year and a bit after this hot night in Milwaukee) the untapped genius of Magic Sam continues to captivate the minds of blues fans across the world. These 16 tracks provide further evidence that these fans know a thing or two.
Review Date: January 2014