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Paucity of Magic Sam albums justifies poor live set

Magic Touch
Magic Touch
By Magic Sam

Black Top Records: 1993

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This review first appeared in the Winter 1994 edition of Blues Revue Quarterly magazine (now Blues Revue).

If it wasn't for the fact that "Magic" Sam Maghett recorded so few tracks in his short career, this album – recorded on a portable tape player in a club by blues historian George Adins – would be of little interest. But Magic Sam's reputation as one of the best blues guitarists of his generation in 1960s Chicago, and his tragic death at age 32, make this CD worth having, despite the extremely poor quality of the recording.

Magic Sam's guitar playing was like no one else's; it was indescribably light, floating above whoever backed him. Sam's imagination was as fluid as his leads, and one never knew just were a solo would end up.

Maghett was joined on this outing by his uncle, Shakey Jake Harris, on harp and vocals, and Odie Payne on drums. Bassist Mack Thompson rounded out the combo. The electric blues Magic Sam played was up-tempo, modern; part of the post-Muddy Waters generation. It can best be compared to the blues of Buddy Guy, Otis Rush and George "Wild Child" Butler.

There are far better Magic Sam recordings available, just not many of them. There is even a "live" album from Delmark which one should obtain before this. But for those who have all the existing Magic Sam recordings and crave more of the man, this one will do.