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May 2000

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Magic Slim and the Teardrops
Grand Slam
Rooster Blues

Magic Slim and the Teardrops - Grand SlamIt’s hard to believe, but there was a time, long ago, when Magic Slim and the Teardrops had a hard time getting recorded. Back in the late 70’s and early 80’s, his recording opportunities were pretty much limited to either European releases and his appearance on Alligator’s "Living Chicago Blues" series, which paved the way for their later recordings. One of their first U.S. recordings, and still one of their best, was for the then-Mississippi-based Rooster Blues label owned by Living Blues founder Jim O’Neal in 1982. That release, titled Grand Slam, has long been hailed as the band’s finest hour. However, for some reason, financial more than likely, it has never been available as a CD domestically until now. Bottled Majic Music has purchased Rooster Blues and is in the process of reissuing their outstanding catalog.

One listen to Grand Slam and you’ll realize that, despite numerous personnel changes over the years, little has changed about Slim’s vision of the blues. It’s still a hard-driving, tough-as-nails approach. As usual, most of the songs are covers (Slim’s repertoire is second-to-none), including "Walking the Dog," "Fannie Mae," "Give Me Back My Wig," and Magic Sam’s "She Belongs to Me." These songs are all familiar, but the Teardrops bring something a little different to each one of them. Slim’s originals are mostly instrumental, but there is an early version of "Scufflin’." Two of the instrumentals, "Slammin’" and "1823 South Michigan Avenue," really display the talents of second guitarist Pete Allen. The first 11 tracks were produced by O’Neal, Amy van Singel, and Mick and Cilla Huggins, and they have that "live in the studio" sound that is found on all Rooster Blues recordings.

In addition, Rooster Blues has added three songs from Magic Slim’s first session, recorded in 1975 at Chess Records’ Ter-Mar studio and produced by Steve Cushing, then the Teardrops’ drummer and presently the host of the "Blues Before Sunrise" syndicated radio program. These tracks, originally released on the Mean Mistreater label, show that even in their early stages, the Teardrops had that patented Chicago sound down pat.

Grand Slam offers nothing new to those who are already familiar with Magic Slim and the Teardrops, but it shows that Slim had everything he needed in place when he got started. This is Chicago blues at its finest.

--- Graham Clarke

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