CLASSIC ALBUM: MAGIC SAM – WEST SIDE SOUL BY TODD BEEBE
The late 1960’s proved to be a very inspirational time for the blues. Younger generations of listeners were discovering the music through modern bands. Blues was being presented alongside a good mix of other styles that (no coincidence) sprang from the blues to begin with. Sound confusing? Look no further than the great Magic Sam’s West Side Soul to explain everything.
[pullquote]Mixing traditional blues with dashes of soul and R&B, Magic Sam pulled out all the stops and then some to produce one of the greatest electric blues albums of all time: West Side Soul, released in 1967 on Delmark Records.[/pullquote]
Motown was making huge waves in Detroit, and Stax Records was already bringing blues-based soul music to the masses. Not only did Sam combine all of these elements for his Delmark debut, he also brought a voice that stands out on the LP as much as the white hot guitar playing. Guitar slingers come and go, and so do great vocalists. Very rarely a performer combines the two into one outstanding package (Buddy Guy immediately comes to mind). Magic Sam’s guitar playing is undeniably outstanding throughout West Side Soul, but his voice is just as remarkable. It’s amazing to hear him play “call and response” throughout West Side Soul, using his voice just like another instrument.
“That’s All I Need” kicks things off, and proves right out of the gate that Sam has brought several musical elements to the party to mix with his blues. This tune is as much soul as it is blues. But in case you’re wondering if Sam will give us any pure blues here, he immediately dives into “I Need You So Bad,” an example of pure, straight up electric Blues at it’s finest.
“Feelin’ Good” puts a John Lee Hooker spin into the mix. We’re only 3 songs into West Side Soul, and Sam has already covered a lot of ground. Sam’s treble/reverb drenched guitar fits into this one perfectly, and he once again wails loud and proud on vocals.
“All Your Love” keeps the powerhouse vocals going with a groove to die for. For my money, this tune represents everything that is Magic Sam. Great vocals, great guitar, and a blues groove with enough soul mixed in to turn everyone’s ear, “All Your Love” is the definitive Magic Sam tune.
“Don’t Want No Woman” uses humorous lyrics to keep the listener drawn in and then segues into “Sweet Home Chicago.” Sure, everyone and anyone has covered this song. But in my opinion, in the million times it has been played, it has never been better than this.
“I Found Me A New Love” and “Every Night, Every Day” give us more trademark Magic Sam, and “Lookin’ Good” takes us on an instrumental detour. You’ve gotta love the energy on this one, as Sam screams and shouts in between instrumental breaks.
“My Love Will Never Die” sends chills up your spine. The great, almost eerie sound, matched with Sam’s powerhouse vocals, make this a blues to die for. “Mama Talk To Your Daughter” closes out the album. This tune was a showstopper in Magic Sam’s live shows, and he recreates that “live” feel here.
The great Bob Koester has a knack for presenting artists on record as they sound live. Koester accomplished this with Junior Wells’ “Hoodoo Man Blues”, and does so again with “West Side Soul.” The album paved the way for the blues to allow other, modern elements to blend with tradition. Its effect is timeless: “West Side Soul” sounds as fresh today as it did in 1967. In 2011, Delmark released a re-mastered version, with an extra, alternate version of “Don’t Want No Woman.” If you don’t already have it, stop what you’re doing and get it. Now.