Mighty Sam McClain's new CD is a best of, 11 tracks that have been on his last four studio albums plus two unissued tracks, make up this welcome release for anybody new to Sam. A lot of smaller record companies have to try to make ends meet, so after about 4 albums, they bring out a "Best of," which is an excellent way to catch up with an artist or get to known a artist.
In the case of Mighty Sam who has been making some of his best music during the nineties, not that he hasn't in the past. Sam's "Live in Japan" from 1988 and "Your Perfect Companion" from 1986, are both worth seeking out. The nineties has seen Sam relocate to Boston where he has linked up with some first class musicians, which is shown to great effect on this "Best of" album.
The CD starts with "Too Proud," which was originally on his 1993 release "Give It Up To Love," and is a Carlene Carter song which has some terrific B-3 Hammond playing from the gifted Bruce Katz. Also to be fair it has some great guitar work from Kevin Barry and is well supported by Drummer Lorne Entress and Bass player Michael Rivard. "Too Proud" tells the tale of the pitfalls of pride and shows the quality of what is to come on the CD. The one thing that Sam is good at, is the ability to convince an audience of his pain and hopes for the future which he does so well on the gospel flavored "New Man In Town" with a good horn section, playing to good effect. Sam also has a great ability to describe the hurt and the joys of falling in love as he does so well on "Here I Go Again Falling In Love Again." I once had the pleasure of talking to Sam over several days and he told me that he had been to the bottom and that he had made a promise, that if God got him through to better things he would praise God everyday. This explains why on Sam's albums he sings the praise of the lord as in "Hanging on The Cross" and "Lord Will Make A Way," which see's Sam in a spiritual mood. "Lord Will Make A Way" is an Al green song which sounds like it was written for Mighty Sam. "Who Made You Cry?" is a song dedicated to women and is sung with a soft passion which builds up nicely into a great vocal performance.
The two unissued songs "Honey Chile" and "I'm Gonna Love You" are both uptempo and one wonders why they never made it on to the "Journey" album, as they were both recorded at the sessions for that album, and see the band playing well together. Special mention again to the wonderful piano playing of Bruce Katz on "When The Hurt Is Over" and slide guitar from Kevin Barry gives this song a wonderful steamy swampy Louisiana sound.
Sam comes up trumps with the gorgeous "Give It Up To Love" to finish this wonderful overview of Sam's last 4 studio albums. The strength in this album is the wonderful playing of the musicians and the quality of the songs, many of which Sam wrote himself, which give this CD the real meaning of "Best of". If you've not been tempted to buy a Mighty Sam album before now is the time to acquaint yourself to a quality performer. Also if you ever get the chance to see Sam live do, as he has got one of the best touring bands in the world behind him.
This review is copyright © 1999 by Dave Thomas, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.