Music for your speakers: Mighty Sam McClain’s Give It Up To Love

Not only do they sell the world’s finest hi-fi, but Grahams Hi-Fi, London also stocks a carefully chosen selection of CDs and vinyl. This month they recommend Mighty Sam McClain’s Give It Up To Love

Many years ago one of the manufacturers that supply us with hi-fi equipment, Arcam, were distributing in the UK quality speaker and interconnect cables from an American company called Audioquest. In the late 80s and early 90s, Audioquest started up an audiophile blues label called, not surprisingly, Audioquest Music, which was run by the Vice President of Audioquest, Joe Harley.  He has since produced music for Telarc, ECM and Groove Note, as well as 45 rpm Blue Note vinyl reissues for Music Matters.  For a few years, under Harley’s watch, Audioquest released some great music which we were lucky enough to listen to.  One of our favourites is Luke and the Locomotives by Robert Lucas, a superb electric guitar-led blues rock album, and this album Give It Up To Love by Mighty Sam McClain, which is a bluesy soul record.  It was recorded in 1993 and, twenty years on, we still use it as a demonstration disc.

McClain hails from Louisiana, in the south of the United States, and has a real lived-in voice.  It is powerful and full of soul, but more importantly, it is sincere.  You will believe every word he sings.  As he sings of love or the blues, you know that he has been there, done that, and got the t-shirt.  In trying to establish his musical career he took all sorts of dead-end jobs, and was even living on the streets a few months before this album was recorded.  He is joined on this album by a superb band with Bruce Katz on piano and Hammond B-3 organ, Kevin Barry on guitars, Michael Rivard on bass, and Lorne Entress on drums.  Bennie Wallace guests on tenor saxophone on “Got To Have Your Love”.  McClain wrote, or co-wrote, all of the tracks except for Al Green’s “I Feel Good” and Carlene Carter’s “Too Proud’”.

Audioquest set up this  pure analogue recording with the tracks recorded live, direct to two track, with no more than a couple of takes for each song, and the negligible use of overdubbing.  This gives the album a live-in-the-studio feel. On the track, “Got To Have Your Love”, the drums come in, followed by the saxophone and bass, followed by a guitar riff and a short piano solo.  Then before he starts to sing you can hear a big belly laugh coming from McClain in the background as he enjoys the quality of the musicianship around him.  In fact from the first few notes of the upbeat opening track, “Give It Up To Love”, with the drums, Hammond organ, electric guitar and electric bass supporting the soaring vocals, to the last notes of the closing track, “Lonesome Road”, which is a vocal and acoustic guitar duet, this album is a delight.  It is a rare mixture of great musicianship, great music and a great recording.

Paul Janove, Grahams Hi-Fi, London

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