Mighty Sam McClain
Wow, Mighty Sam certainly has had a ride, from 1966 when he hit the Top 10 with a version of "Sweet Dreams", to penniless and homeless in the '80s. And then back. Indeed, the '90s have been better to Mighty Sam than just about any other Soul/Blues singer. And the good times are certainly well deserved. Let's face it, the man can sing. And more than just having a voice (after all, studio voices are a dime a dozen), he writes powerful songs, and performs like the stage is his personal ticket to heaven.
While "Sweet Dreams" contains an updated version of his first hit, the album centers on Mighty Sam's own songs of faith. Opening and closing with two very different but equally powerful versions of "Here I Come Again", Mighty Sam let's us know that he is here, indeed that we are all here to find a path back to the God who placed us here. On his previous albums he left some doubt as to whether the love songs were earthly or heavenly, not here, the 11 songs in between are, with but an exception or two, about this same faith. From the slow, stately country soul of "Learn How To Love You Again", to the stomp of "I Love Hard", Sam sings with such devotion that the connection to heaven is clear. Even more, on his stupendous remake of "Respect Yourself", the message is hammered home. Mighty Sam is still standing because of his faith in G-d, and he wants each of us to know and share that.
While I can't speak for their spiritual viewpoint, from a musical perspective, the band certainly shares this feeling. The Mighty Horns play with precision and power that even Gabriel's own horn section would envy. And Bruce Katz plays the B-3 like no man can, rolling, rumbling and anchoring each song with the very harmony of the earth itself. Even more, producer Joe Harley obviously felt the spirit as it would be a sin to fault the recording in any way. Dynamic, powerful, full-frequency, harmonically rich and detailed, it captures the essence of music as well as I've heard from CD.
Sure, Mighty Sam's last three or four albums have been superb, so it may sound a bit like a rubber stamp to say this one is as well. But it is. Even more, I believe it reflects more of the man himself as he sings from and about his very soul. Mandatory listening then, even for an agnostic such as myself.