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Satan And Adam|
Word On The Street: Harlem Recordings, 1989
(Modern Blues Harmonica © 2008)
Review Date: January 2009
by Norman Darwen
These days a lot of people talk about 'music from the streets' - but that is
exactly - exactly! - what is on offer here on this two-CD set. A radio interview
at the end of the set fills in some background for those unfamiliar with the
duo, so suffice to say that back in the late eighties Satan And Adam had a
regular pitch on 125th Street in Harlem, Mr. Satan (a-k-a Sterling Magee), the
older African-American singer and incredibly unfettered and imaginative electric
guitarist (he also plays percussion) who had had a recording career of sorts,
letting Adam Gussow, the young white eager harmonica player, sit in, and the two
men finding common ground over the hours, days, weeks, months and years they
worked together for a passing audience (and a few regulars). Together they have
made some of the most vibrant blues of the last couple of decades, though it is
not always easy listening.
What has been absent from their studio releases though is the sound of the
street, the way they sounded above the traffic, babies, and other extraneous
noise of Harlem as they tried to coax the dollars, nickels and dimes from the
pockets of the passers-by (you can hear an occasional 'thank you' from Mr.
Satan) or just played for whoever wanted to listen - even if that was sometimes
only themselves. That is of course what this release rectifies. These recordings
have been digitised and remastered, but Adam recalls in his notes that he used
to tape their performances on a "$79 Radio Shack boom-box that I set down on the
sidewalk, in front of us, usually, but also on several occasions somewhat off to
my side". This loose arrangement carries over into the music, as the city's
sounds intrude sometimes, others shout or join in, and the two main men hit a
groove and work it for all it is worth - and what a groove! It is frequently
difficult to believe this is the work of just two men. It does go without saying
that the sound balance may not always be perfect, but it really doesn't matter -
just trust me on that! "A typical day in Harlem", is how Adam describes it; I'm
not disagreeing with him, but I call it the blues as real as you'll get it.
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