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Satan and Adam: WORD ON THE STREET

The first new album release in 12 years from the legendary Harlem blues duo Satan and Adam (Sterling Magee and Adam Gussow).

This is a double-length live album with a number of extended jams: 14 different songs in high-quality mp3 form, more than TWO HOURS of music recorded in 1989 on 125th Street in Harlem, one block from the Apollo Theater. Plus Noah Adams's 1991 "All Things Considered" interview with Satan and Adam.

Here's an excerpt from the liner notes, which are included as a .doc file along with the mp3s:

"I've told the story of Satan and Adam a thousand times: to DJs, on liner notes, in magazine columns and a memoir, to folks I've met in bars. How I stumbled across Sterling Magee on 125th Street in Harlem one day in the fall of 1986, kicking and stomping, the most amazing one-man blues band I'd ever seen; how I asked to sit in on harp; how we'd jammed, made a bucketful of tips on our first song ('Mojo,' he called it), and become inseparable almost immediately. How the members of U2 came by the following summer (our first) and had their video crew shoot footage of Freedom For My People that ended up in the documentary, Rattle & Hum. How we worked the streets for two more years, winter and summer, until a producer named Rachel Faro gave us her card in Times Square one day in 1989 and told us she wanted to take us into the studio. How we recorded our first album, Harlem Blues, in two marathon sessions (February 1990 and February 1991) and then hit JazzFest in New Orleans, opened for Bo Diddley on his UK tour, and, amazingly had a career. Three albums, dozens of festivals, hundreds of club gigs, a nervous breakdown, a heart attack, various rebirths.

"I've told all those stories. But something has been missing, all this time: what we actually sounded like on the street.

"Because that's the strange thing: Satan and Adam began as the unlikeliest of streetside jams. The name 'Satan and Adam' didnt even take shape until we had a cassette demo tape, after that first recording session, and I had to call it something. Up until that point, we were simply Mr. Satan and the white boy who played with him up by the phone company. (Our steady spot was a stretch of sidewalk in front of the AT&T Phone Store on 125th Street, across from the Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. State Office Building.) We were neighborhood musicians with a steady gig on an extremely public stage. As a white guy with a blues jones who was serious about mastering his instrument, I considered myself the luckiest harmonica-man in the world.

"We never rehearsed. We played. We worked it out, then and there. He'd throw me something--a curve, more often than not; some new blues groove unlike anything I'd ripped off my shelf of records--and Id do my best to match it. He'd play a song for days. Sometimes it felt as though he played them to death. He'd milk them for every last drop of swinging funk, then slam to a stop, roar his Thank you ma'ams and sirs as people tossed dollar bills into the tip bucket, and blast into the next one...."

With the exception of "C. C. Rider" and "Whole Lotta Nothing," none of these songs have appeared on previous albums by Satan and Adam:

track / running time / harp key
1) Funky Revival 9:21 A
2) CC Rider 11:51 C
3) Hey Hey Hey Hey 10:03 A
4) What'd I Say 6:55 A
5) Harlem Honky Tonk 5:14 A
6) Set Break 2:19 G (1st pos.)
7) Big Boss Man 15:53 A
8) Take You Downtown 5:09 D-flat
9) Whole Lotta Nothing 4:52 C
10) Keep On Pushing 14:15 A
11) I Don't Know 3:56 B-flat
12) I Need Your Love 12:41 A
13) Every Day I Have the Blues 6:53 B-flat
14) Keep On Walking 10:22 C
15) Noah Adams - NPR (1991) 8:03 C, B-flat, A

These tracks have been carefully pitch-corrected, and a harp key chart has been included so that blues harmonica players will easily be able to jam along.

What makes these recordings unique, apart from the two guys making all this music, is the sonic qualities of the street and the intimacy of the local crowd, which Magee frequently addresses on a first-name basis. The word "authentic" is frequently applied to the blues, but in this case the word is deserved. This is authentic Harlem street blues.

Photograph courtesy of Danny Clinch.

Another Modern Blues Harmonica production
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