Back in the '60s and '70s -- before bootleggers had the generally higher standards that they have today -- it wasn't uncommon to hear a collector defending a bootleg LP despite its inferior sound quality. The argument was usually something along the lines of, "Yes, the sound is poor, but I still recommend this Led Zeppelin bootleg because Jimmy Page absolutely burns when they do 'Whole Lotta Love.'" Rockin' Wild in Chicago isn't a bootleg -- this Delmark release is totally legal -- but it merits the same sort of defense that vinyl collectors often gave '60s and '70s bootlegs back in the day. A collection of live performances that spans 1963-1968 but didn't come out until 2002, Rockin' Wild in Chicago was recorded at three different Windy City venues: the Copacabana, the Alex Club, and Mother Blues. This CD definitely won't impress audiophiles; the sound quality ranges from barely decent to genuinely bad (by '60s standards). But the performances themselves are generally excellent. Magic Sam was among the most exciting Chicago bluesmen of the '60s, and the singer/guitarist is downright explosive whether he turns his attention to "Got My Mojo Working," "Further on Up the Road," or Lowell Fulson's "It's All Your Fault, Baby." The less-than-stellar rating that this CD merits isn't due to the quality of Sam's performances; it is due to the sound quality. And because the sound is as disappointing as it is, Rockin' Wild in Chicago isn't recommended to casual listeners -- there are several excellent Magic Sam CDs on Delmark that aren't plagued by inferior sound. Rockin' Wild in Chicago is strictly for the late bluesman's more devoted fans, who will probably want a copy despite the inferior sound.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson