Sam Samudio, with Duane Allman – Sam, Hard And Heavy (1971; 2013 reissue)

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This is a first-time CD reissue in any form of Sam The Sham’s fine 1971 solo album, originally released on Atlantic Records and produced by the legendary Tom Dowd at Criteria Studios in Miami — plus as a bonus the non-album single, Janis Joplin’s country-flavored “Me and Bobby McGee.” Sam actually earned a 1971 Grammy for best liner notes, too.

The Pharaohs had disbanded a few years before, and Samudio was faced with a much changed music scene. Sam had to reinvent himself and, as a result, rises to the occasion here by getting back in touch with his R&B and blues roots with a grab bag mix of new originals and choice covers. It’s too bad that Atlantic Records didn’t promote the record, as it really stood a chance in reigniting Sam’s career, which at that point had gone about four years without a hit.

Guests include his backing band for this album, the Dixie Flyers with Jim Dickinson, as well as Elvis Presley’s female backing singers the Sweet Inspirations and the Allman Brothers’ lead guitarist Duane Allman — who is instantly recognizable on “Going Upstairs,” “Relativity” and “Me and Bobby McGee,” all of which he invigorates instantly.

Otis Rush’s blues standard “Homework” opens the album with a horn-driven uptempo approach, and that continues through the oddly named jam “15 Degrees Capricorn ASC.” Sam also does a funky soul version of Ray Charles’ “Lonely Avenue,” and approaches Randy Newman’s “Let’s Burn Down the Cornfield” as a slow, moody, John Lee Hooker-like acoustic piece. A fine boogie workout of John Lee Hooker’s “Goin’ Upstairs” also shows that Sam’s blues skills never left him.

Samudio’s “I Wanna Testify” is a soulful ballad, while the inspired “Sweet Release” was drawn from Boz Scaggs’ self-titled 1969 debut album. He turns the blues classic “Key to the Highway” into a mid-tempo rocker, while the Tex-Mex flavored “Don’t Put Me On” adds yet another color to the album.

Richie Unterberger’s excellent liner notes in this Real Gone Music reissue tell the story of how the album came to be, while Sam’s own original award-winning liner notes are included in full as well. Mucho thanks must go to Real Gone Music for having the courage in reissuing this fine album, after all of these years.

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Steve Elliott

Steve Elliott

Steve Elliott has written for Shindig, Twist and Shake, Garage & Beat and Ugly Things. A big fan of all things rock and roll - especially the British Invasion, garage rock, psychedelic, new wave, folk rock, surf and power pop - he was a consultant on Sundazed Music's reissue of 'The Best of Butch Engle & The Styx: No Matter What You Say' in 2000, and has also provided liner notes for Italy's Misty Lane Records. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Steve Elliott
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