SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

Mighty Sam McClain – Give It Up To Love; Sledgehammer Blues
BluesQuest (compilation); Sledgehammer Blues

Two great introductions to some modern blues artists with superlative SACD recordings.

Published on December 13, 2012

Mighty Sam McClain – Give It Up To Love; Sledgehammer Blues 55-AQM-1015 SACD Stereo **** 54:29:

BluesQuest (compilation); Sledgehammer Blues 55-AQM-1052 SACD Stereo 54:21 ****:

(All analog recording direct-to-two-track except for some overdubbing on track one and ten, recorded by Michael C. Ross and mastered by Bernie Grundman; Mighty Sam McClain (vocals); Bruce Katz (piano and Hammond B-3 organ); Kevin Barry (guitar); Michael Rivard (bass); Lorne Entress (drums); Bennie Wallace (tenor sax on track five).

Testify! This is another excellent SACD release by Audioquest.  One of my favorite tracks off the Bluesquest sampler “Too Proud”—a Carlene Carter tune—is on this disc.  With the exception of one other tune by Al Green all the other songs are written by McClain.  Sam got his start back in the 50s/60s singing R&B.  In 1966 he had a successful single and was soon performing alongside early greats Gladys Knight, Otis Redding, the Temptations, among others.  For many years following McClain’s career was uncertain.  A move in the early 1990s to New England helped to restart his career and thus we have this recording.

With “Here I Go Falling In Love Again” we can hear roots in soul.  It’s clear that the material on this disc is performed by a seasoned professional.  The mix between slower and faster tunes is just right—“I’m Tired Of These Blues” is one of the standout mellower blues tunes.  Song after song grabs the listener and serves as even more proof of McClain’s ability to work the audience.  The album includes extensive liner notes by Frank-John Hadley.  This one’s a keeper.

TrackList: Give It Up To Love; Too Proud; What You Want Me To Do; Here I Go Falling In Love Again; Got To Have Your Love; Child Of The Mighty Mighty; I’m Tired Of These Blues; I Feel Good; Love Me If You Want To; Don’t Turn Back Now; Lonesome Road.


The majority of these tracks were recorded in the mid to late 90s, and the disc was a popular sampler among dealers of Audioquest products.  All the music was recorded in the analog domain direct to two track tape and the SACD was mastered by Bernie Grundman.  Two thirds of the material is by the original recording artist while a few others are from blues legends like John Lee Hooker and “Lightning” Hopkins.  Both electric and acoustic blues are represented and all the tracks are first-rate in terms of the sound quality—as I said this was probably used as a demonstration disc at quite a few hi-fi stores—low noise, great dynamics, very realistic.

As a compilation goes there isn’t a dud in the mix.  The first track by Terry Evans preaches and pronounces his revival rendition of the blues—a great choice to start the disc off.  Mighty Sam McClain’s “Too Proud” is one of my favorites on the sampler.  It’s intense, powerful and sincere.  This track is probably the most accessible song to non-blues listeners as well.  “Country Girl” is what some might term a country blues tune with matching vocals that get down and dirty.  The Bruce Katz Band may not have a bluesy sounding name, but can these guys play the blues.  The harmonica smoothes the way for impressive piano prowess—singing, sliding and swinging!  Robert Lucas is no stranger to the blues scene and proves it with his playful plucking.  Lucas is HUNGRY: sniff, sniff—you’ll understand when you hear the music.  All in all a great introduction to some modern blues artists with a superlative recording.

TrackList: Get Up, Get Ready (Terry Evans); One Good Woman (Doug MacLeod); Dirty Groundhoug (Joe Beard); Too Proud (Mighty Sam McClain); Country Girl (Ronnie Earl, Pinetop Perkins, Calvin “Fuzz” Jones, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith); The Prowler (Bruce Katz Band); Going Back Home (Sherman Robertson); Old Country Road (Doug MacLeod); 50 Lbs of Bone (Robert Lucas); See See Rider (Joe Beard); Ronnie’s Blues (Ronnie Earl, Pinetop Perkins, Calvin “Fuzz” Jones, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith); Somebody Help Me (Mighty Sam McClain).

—Brian Bloom




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