Saturday, October 27, 2018

Hadley Caliman - 1977 - Celebration

Hadley Caliman

01. Presenting Mr. Jones 5:54
02. My Marie 6:52
03. Gala 7:12
04. Separation Blues 3:30
05. Schyleen 4:35
06. Lush Life 8:30
07. Two For T 4:52

Bass – David Williams
Drums – Elvin Jones
Flute – Hadley Caliman
Piano – Hotep Cecil Barnard
Tenor Saxophone – Hadley Caliman

Recorded At Sage & Sound Studios Hollywood California, June 7, 1977.

Incredibly soulful work from 70s west coast player Hadley Caliman – a great talent on both sax and flute, and a player who only cut a very small number of albums under his own name! The album's got a really seductive feel – gently spiritual, with a style that bubbles with restrained energy, but which runs very very deeply through the length of the set. The album's really well put together – stuffed with original tracks, and featuring backing by Hotep Cecil Bernard on piano, David Williams on bass, and Elvin Jones on drums. Both Caliman's tunes and playing have a lightly magical feel to them – a sadness behind the sun, done at a complicated level that we appreciate more and more over the years.

Hadley Caliman - 1976 - Projecting

Hadley Caliman

01. Projecting 5:18
02. Smearzo 5:42
03. Her 5:44
04. I Love You 4:22
05. Song For My Queen 6:36
06. The Latin Thing 5:17
07. Little One 6:16

Bass – Kenny Jenkins
Drums – Brent Rampone
Piano – Hotep Cecil Barnard
Tenor Saxophone – Hadley Caliman

Inspired by Dexter Gordon, Hadley Harold Caliman (1932-2010) began playing tenor at 14 and from 1949 to 1951 was part of Roy Porter’s youthful L.A. band that included such soon-to-be notables as Eric Dolphy, Sonny Criss, Joe Maini, and Art and Addison Farmer. A drug-fuelled decade of prison terms, however, put his potential on hold.

Released in 1960, he cleaned up and by 1963 made his first record date as a soloist on pianist Frank Strazzeri’s debut album for Pacific Jazz, but neither it nor two pieces he recorded with altoist Earl Anderza’s sextet were released at the time. He spent the rest of the 60s mainly in Bobby Bryant’s quartet and Gerald Wilson’s band, and worked with Bola Sete, Don Ellis and Mongo Santamaria.

If his diverse capabilities were appreciated among musicians at the highest level, he remained dissatisfied and moved to San Francisco area. There he was finally recognised as an original soloist on sax and flute, making his leader debut on record in 1971. During that decade he led three more albums and was a sideman on several with jazz greats Freddie Hubbard, Joe Henderson or Bobby Hutcherson, and rock star Carlos Santana.

These Catalyst albums, Projecting (1976) and Celebration (1977), illustrating perfectly his vibrant, virile playing—which, despite echoes of Coltrane, is very much his own—remain the best examples we have of the most creative years in his extensive career.

Projecting was a rare, tough independent fusion from saxophonist Hadley Caliman along with Hotep Barnard on piano, Kenny Jenkins bass and Bent Rampone on drums.Released on Catalyst Records and featuring the jazz dancers favourite 'The Latin Thing'. Tough tune! RARE

Hadley Caliman - 1972 - Iapetus

Hadley Caliman 

01. Watercress 3:45
02. Ambivalence 7:38
03. Dee's Glee 7:39
04. Iapetus 9:59
05. Quadrivium 3:48
06. Green Eyes 5:17

Bass – James Leary
Congas – Victor Pantoja
Drums – Woody Theus
Flute – Hadley Caliman
Piano – Todd Cochran
Tenor Saxophone – Hadley Caliman
Timbales – Hungria Garcia
Trumpet – Luis Gasca

Cochran's acoustic piano and rhodes work on Hadley Caliman's second Mainstream release "Iapetus" (1972) is outstanding, with controlled use of wah-wah and some inspired solos amongst a great group of musicians. The album's suffused with a latin vibe - not "latin jazz", but jazz that references latin rhythm, similar to the sort of merge that was taking place in Carlos Garnett's work. I've put a whole track here, so listen through to Cochran's great solo from 1:26, and get the album from the link above. Recommended album!

Hadley Caliman - 1971 - Hadley Caliman

Hadley Caliman
Hadley Caliman

01. Cigar Eddie 6:25
02. Comencio 7:40
03. Little One 4:44
04. Blues For L.L. 8:40
05. Kicking On The Inside 4:50
06. Longing 2:46

Bass – Bill Douglas
Drums – Clarence Becton
Guitar – John White Jr.
Piano – Larry Vuckovich
Producer – Bobby Shad
Tenor Saxophone, Flute – Hadley Caliman

There's a big problem on this 2014 reissue of the first Hadley Caliman album. Tracks 4, 5 & 6 are not from the original album, but from 1972 Hadley Caliman 2nd album : Iapetus. Sadly enough that is the version you will find on most blogs and download sites, presented here is a rip from the LP, thus with the proper tracklisting.

Tenor saxophonist Hadley Caliman is part of the living history of jazz music in America. He has performed, recorded and toured with musicians such as Freddie Hubbard, Gerald Wilson, Carlos Santana, Dexter Gordon, Elvin Jones, Mongo Santamaria, Joe Pass, The Grateful Dead, Joe Henderson, Don Ellis, Flora Purim, Phoebe Snow, Bobby Hutcherson and many others.

Just in case you’re encountering Hadley Caliman for the first time, here’s a little background. His long career in jazz began at Jefferson High in Los Angeles where his classates included Art Farmer, followed by gigs on Central Avenue in the 50s where he was known as “Little Dex” (for Dexter Gordon with whom he studied). In the 60s he played with Mongo Santamaria, Gerald Wilson’s Big Band, Willie Bobo and Don Ellis. In San Francisco in the 70s, he played and recorded with Freddie Hubbard, Joe Henderson, Nancy Wilson, Hampton Hawes, Jon Hendricks and Bobby Hutcherson and led four albums of his own. One of his high profile dates of the period was touring and recording with Santana at a time when rock bands were trying to expand their musical horizons by employing jazz musicians.

The pervasive influence of John Coltrane is noticeable in Hadley Caliman’s playing, but it’s tempered by the earlier West Coast bop experience and rounded into his own sound by the years of playing in a myriad of gigs of all description. West Coast tenorists like Dexter Gordon, Harold Land, Joe Henderson, Ernie Watts, and Hadley Caliman generally have a more rounded sound than their East Coast counterparts.

It’s also true that one learns from teaching. Hadley was on the music faculty at the Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle for over 20 years and his influence can be heard in dozens of young saxophonists and others who studied with him

Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Caliman was active leading a quartet and quintet in the Seattle area, served on the music faculty at Cornish College of the Arts, and taught private lessons to area musicians. He died of liver cancer in September 2010, at the age of 78.

Although Caliman was born in Idabel, Oklahoma, in 1932, he is so closely associated with the early Bebop scene in Los Angeles that it's easy to think of Southern California as his birthplace. The Central Avenue clubs (the Cotton Club, Club Alabam, The Downbeat, Club Araby, Club Finale) first opened Caliman's eyes to jazz. The studios in nearby Hollywood included jazz in its films and on its recordings. The predominantly African American high schools in South Central Los Angeles boasted small big band programs with a number of talented young musicians. At Jefferson, Caliman's high school, an anonymous donor provided tubas and saxophones. An instructor was hired and a big band was born. Caliman joined that big band (along with another tenor saxophonist, Wilbur Brown) and learned charts by Duke Ellington and Count Basie.
The high school band was only part of Caliman's education in jazz. The clubs and its touring musicians helped foster his musical interest. "When I was a kid at that age," recalls Caliman, "it was nothing to see musicians live. Duke Ellington? Count Basie? Lionel Hampton? You got the chance to see the guys and know them. There's a band that Eddie Vinson used to play with -The Cleanheads. Every time they came to town, I saw that band. I knew the guys in the band."
Another important influence on Caliman was the great tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon. Caliman's family lived on the same street as Gordon's. The young saxophonist had listened to his records in high school, and emulated the lanky, gifted Gordon. "Everyone was trying to sound like Dexter or Lucky Thompson back then," says Caliman. "I had all Dexter's records." Caliman wasn't shy. He introduced himself to Gordon -4 years his senior- and they connected. Gordon sometimes borrowed Caliman's horn. "That's how I really got to know him," he adds. "I had the same kind of saxophone that he had." In one instance, Gordon had dropped his saxophone, damaging the instrument. He visited Caliman and asked if he could borrow his horn. "Of course!" Caliman recalls, laughing. "I thought maybe some notes would stick up in there!"
The connection was made. Gordon provided instruction to Caliman. Caliman, in turn, became know as "Little Dex" around the Central Avenue scene. Unfortunately, the pair had something else in common: both musicians were junkies. Caliman's Bebop career was starting to take off. He was performing at clubs around Los Angeles, and touring with various combos and ensembles. Cocaine, heroin, and crime however, were bigger influences than Bebop. In the early 1950's, Caliman would find himself in prison alongside his mentor and idol Dexter Gordon.
Caliman's first run-in with the law was in the 1950s. By his own admission, Caliman (along with his girlfriend at the time) burglarized an office in Los Angeles, stole the company's checkbook, and began forging checks in order to pay for their drug addiction.
The police were soon onto Caliman and his companion. The pair fled to Idabel, Oklahoma then moved to Cincinnati (his girlfriend's hometown). Her father was the top juvenile officer in the city, and helped Caliman find a job delivering flowers. Shortly thereafter, her father learned about their run-in with the Los Angeles law enforcement, and Caliman was offered a choice. "Her father told me, 'I'll help you anyway you want,'" Caliman recalls. "'You can run or you can turn yourself in.'"
Caliman turned himself over to the authorities. The pair was flown back to Los Angeles and thrown in jail. She was bailed out immediately. Caliman, on the other hand, remained incarcerated. "My dad said, 'Well, I know where you are. You're good and healthy. They'll feed you. You're not out on the streets. I'm not worried about you.'"
Caliman's girlfriend eventually bailed him out of jail. The next day, Caliman was busted for attempting to steal a cigarette truck. He landed in prison this time, at Chino, with Gordon and a number of other jazz musicians. Caliman's addiction was not uncommon at the time. Many jazz musicians were struggling with heroin and cocaine addiction, and landed in jail throughout their careers. "It was a trend at the time," explains Caliman. "Everyone was [messed] up." Caliman remembers spending a stint in jail with Miles Davis and Art Blakey. "They were busted and sent to this segregated tank," says Caliman. "Nobody knew who they were, except some of the musicians. I recognized who they were, and brought them up to the front section where it was privileged to be. I had been in there long enough."
Meanwhile, back at Chino, Caliman was waiting to learn which prison he would be sent to: the maximum security San Quentin facility? Or the minimum-security facility at Chino. He was twenty years old and facing eighteen months of incarceration.
He was sent to San Quentin. It was there that he met other musicians, including a saxophonist named Yama Johnson. "The guy played exactly like Charlie Parker," Caliman recalls, clearly in awe and still amazed by the musician. "This guy was self-taught. He played out of the side of his mouth, he couldn't read a note, but he could play exactly like Charlie Parker. We would go down to the yard and play. I learned a lot of stuff in prison. Nothing about technique or tone or armature or finger position. Just blowing. Just making a loud sound."
Caliman was returned to Chino shortly before his release. He joined Gordon, Roy Porter, Honsey Matthews, and other jazz musicians. Caliman and Gordon would walk the yard and talk about music. A teacher from Pomona College taught the inmates dictation, theory, and even some classical music. "I tried to play the clarinet," he says (he would later use that instrument on recordings with Carlos Santana during the 1970s, in addition to his own recordings). "Dex tried to play the flute. We just did different stuff. And then we would have jam sessions."
Caliman was eventually released from prison. But things were hardly any easier. "Prison turned out to be a stigma," says Caliman. "You were dead. 'Oh, yeah, I'm a trustworthy person. I just got out of jail. I can get a good job.' No. It was an economic squeeze. If you came out of prison, the only job was being a jazz musician. As a jazz musician, the environment was really bad for someone with an addiction. So it might be better if you got yourself a straight job. Don't play music anymore."
Quitting music was not an option. Kicking his drug addiction was equally as challenging. Caliman's choice was both difficult and mature. It was a choice that would also turn his life around and rescue his jazz career. "I started paying attention to the horn," he says, frankly. "I realized that drugs were keeping me from the horn. I was through with that [stuff]. If there was a room full of drugs, I didn't want any of it. It was hard to turn it around, but it was the last straw. That was it. I wanted to play my horn. I wanted to play my saxophone and stay out of jail."
Caliman began to network with other musicians in Los Angeles. He went to Sunday jam sessions. He hooked up with Bobby Hutcherson, performing at a gig six nights a week for nearly three years. He also made a living working at recording sessions. He performed at casuals and dances. Anything to keep him away from drugs.
A phone call from Gerald Wilson also helped. Walter Benton had quit Wilson's big band, and Caliman was offered the spot. He headed to Salt Lake City with the group. "It was a totally different thing," says Caliman. "It really encouraged me. I had lots of solo space, and Gerald really liked me."
A similar phone call from Louis Gasca, inviting Caliman to play with Mongo Santamaria, provided more opportunities. Gasca had kicked Bobby Capers out of the group, and he needed a tenor horn. Caliman joined the group and performed for a month at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas, a month at the El Matador in San Francisco, several years at various clubs in New York City, and a long recording stint in Philadelphia.
Caliman eventually quit the band and returned to Los Angeles, where he recorded with Leonard Feather, Joe Pass, Joe Harris, and others. Caliman also spent the 1970s recording with rock musicians. He recorded a number of sessions (and subsequently toured) with Carlos Santana and The Grateful Dead. "There was so much money on the rock and roll side," says Caliman. "It was phenomenal."
Caliman had turned things around. He had a solid professional career. Most importantly, he recorded four albums as a composer and bandleader: Hadley Caliman (1971), Impetus (1972), Projecting (1975) and Celebration (1977). Prior to these recordings, much of Caliman's studio work consisted of side projects with other musicians. Caliman's albums were different. He wrote most of the songs, and his soloing abilities were punctuated. The first two albums are on vinyl only (and collector's items for hardcore jazz fans). The other albums were re-released on compact disc in 2003 by Catalyst Records.

In 1980, Caliman and his then-girlfriend moved to Washington State. They landed in the town of Cathlamet (his girlfriend had family there), located along the Lewis & Clark Trail. He spent some time looking for students to teach, but otherwise had very little success as a jazz musician. "If you want to lose your momentum as a jazz player," says Caliman, "move to a little country town like Cathlamet and teach. Nobody knows who you are."
Caliman was also performing at gigs in Portland. And he started looking to Seattle for work. He introduced himself to Julian Priester -an instructor at Cornish College of the Arts- who offered Caliman a substitute teaching position. That position later turned into a full-time teaching job. He retired in 2003.
"I really like the SRJO [Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra]," he says. "It's forcing me to read music again. And the camaraderie is good, too. I had seen them, but I didn't know them. I heard Jim Wilke playing one of our songs on the radio yesterday, and it sounded good. That sax section sounded good."
Now, he is most excited about the quintet he leads. The group entered the studio last fall, recording seven tracks, including: "That Old Black Magic," "Delilah," "Close Your Eyes," "Linda," "You Leave Me Breathless," and "Soul Train." Those tunes are performed regularly at the group's performances. The result is amazing. During a show at The Triple Door earlier this year, Caliman kicked the evening off with "Commencia" - a jumpy, fast-paced Latin tune that gave the audience a jolt. He also introduced the song "Linda" -a ballad (written for his wife) that floated and dipped in melodic beauty.
"Playing with Hadley is very physical," says the group's drummer Byron Vannoy. "He's from the old school of driving Bebop, and it's very physical stuff. It's a workout with him every time. The guy is seventy-two years old, and he will run you into the ground if you don't rise to his thing. He's a wonderful musician and a great person, and he's got a lot of life. There's a spirit in this certain generation of jazz musicians that, I hate to say it, I don't see it in a lot of generations younger than them."
"He is the sweetest person," adds Linda, Caliman's wife. "In all that he has been through in all of his life, he is untainted. It's a spirit. The spirit has remained intact. He's not been jaded or been cynical by all that he has seen."
Caliman really enjoys each performance. The magic that can happen between musicians is his goal. Rather than trying to control the musicians and their performances, Caliman is often standing in the corner between solos, clapping along with the audience when he hears what he likes. True, he is the star and headliner. But he also knows how to pick his musicians and concede the stage. And his quartet has a signature Caliman sound that speaks to experience, talent, and improvisational excellence.
One Saturday evening in January 2005, the Hadley Caliman Quartet was wrapping up its first set at Tula's restaurant and nightclub in downtown Seattle. Caliman had just led the group through a spirited set of Bebop standards. As Caliman exited the stage, Halberstadt grabbed a microphone. "Ladies and gentleman," he announced, "there is a saxophonist here tonight who is turning 72 years old." Halberstadt pointed to Caliman. A moment later, a waiter appeared from the club's kitchen carrying a large birthday cake marked with glowing candles.

Caliman was surprised by the gesture. The crowd applauded and cheered. The evening was remarkable for several reasons. At seventy-two years old, Caliman was hardly slowing down. The set would last well after midnight. The show would be followed by performances at the Seattle Art Museum in February, The Triple Door in March, more concerts at Tula's, and a series of performance dates that would send him back and forth between Seattle and San Francisco. Moreover, Caliman's responsibilities in the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra (SRJO) recently expanded, particularly after the passing of Don Lanphere (a veteran of the early-1940s New York Bop scene) last fall. And Caliman had spent the later part of 2003 in the studio with his quartet, recording his first album as a leader after nearly two decades.
Several months later, speaking with Caliman near his home in Poulsbo, Washington, he was reflective. "I'm lucky," he explained. "Maybe God is answering my prayers now. I know that he does answer prayers for me. It's just been me. If I could have just gotten it right, it would have been cool. He was doing his job, I just kept screwing up and misjudging." Caliman paused. "I've still got a long ways to go. I want to play forever. That's the main business at hand."
With the help of Todd Matthews / Earshot Jazz Magazine June 2005

Review from the April 1972 issue of Black World magazine:
Hadley Caliman (Mainstream), the saxist's debut as a combo leader, is characterized by an attractive roughness and lack of gimmickery, from the catchy "Cigar Eddy" to "Little One," with its masculine gentleness. Like "Blues For L.L.," where he stretches out, or "Longing," which features him on flute, the tunes were composed by either Caliman or pianist Larry Vukovich. Drummer Clarence Becton and Bassist Bill Douglas complete the quartet.

As Caliman says in the liner notes "I never really got a chance to do my own thing on record before". Here he did it! And the following three Lp's are really of the same brand. Great brand!

John White - 1971 - John White

John White
John White

01. Right Off            06:45
02. Number 3             03:28
03. Granite And Concrete 07:44
04. City                 03:02
05. Help Us Out          07:38
06. Tried To Touch       07:01
Guitar: John White
Electric Piano, Organ: Merl Saunders
Drums: Philip Wilson
Saxophone: Hadley Caliman
Trumpet: John Wilmath
Trombone: Jock Williams
Bass: Dale Smith
Bass: Terry Hensley
Congas: J. Burr
Vocals: Robert Williams
Saxophone: Sonny Red

John White who? That's one of the biggest mysteries of Mainstream and his almost comically generic moniker makes it nigh impossible to root out whatever meagre morsel of info might be floating around in the cloud. Making matters worse, this has to be the most poorly documented recording in the entire MRL collection, which in itself is a pretty impressive feat. This time the only crumbs dropped are a roster and a photog credit. No liner notes, no bio, no other credits, no nothin'. To this day it seems no reliable reference can say who produced the affair, who engineered it or even what studio hosted the session on what date(s).

It was obviously a Bay Area endeavour which one can suss not only from the scenery but also from the presence of locals Hadley Caliman, occasional grateful Deadhead Merl Saunders and Terry Hansley of prescient 'frisco freak-out unit Fifty Foot Hose. Phil Wilson could have been anywhere at the time since he was in between gigs with The Butterfield Blues Band and Julius Hemphill's St. Louis cadre while the lack of photo for New Yorker Sonny Red is a tip-off he probably did overdubs back East when the tapes came in to the office, perhaps unsolicited. Merely speculation, of course.

The rest of the crew is a textbook study in nobodies. Go ahead, google 'em. More than likely they were either fellow buskers or jamming partners since none of them forged a musical career of any note. Heck, maybe they coulda just been neighbourhood drug buddies. Which brings us to the obvious hook up for JW's (alleged) only recorded outing, one Hadley Caliman. Since he had previously recorded for Shad and wrote the only track on the disc not composed by White ("Granite & Concrete," covered by Blue Mitchell on Blue's Blues) it's clear Hadley had a strong hand in developing the project.

The music itself is obviously inflected with that spoonful and the playing so loose it stumbles along with an ungainly grace like the musical equivalent of a Drunken Master Style disciple. The firm blues base, earthy electric bass lines and pro touch brought by Wilson and Saunders tether the funky cacophony of the off-kilter horns, offsetting the amateurish aspects of what was obviously a lets-just-get-in-the-studio-and-jam-then-see-what-happens approach. There are a few strong melodies and some genuine moments of inspiration scattered throughout and if it was tightened up in some places and stretched out in others, it might actually be a burner. Had it been released four years earlier it might even have made some impact as is.

Although it's really neither a rock record nor a funk record, White himself is pretty damn funky and riffs as well as proficient both in soloing and in a support role. His appeal lay in the fact he relies less on pyrotechnics than on wringing the right feel from his instrument to convey the emotional aspect of his material like a classic bluesman. However, adept as he is, no Hendrix he and White would likely be well into the triple-digits in a ranking of music's great electric guitarists. It's an enjoyable listen though, and it's grown on me the last few weeks since it arrived in the post. Definitely worth a listen for those who like horn-laden electric R&B with heavy jazz overtones.

Shades of Joy - 1970 - Music of El Topo

Shades of Joy
Music of El Topo

01. The Desert Is A Circle 7:40
02. Man Of Seven Years 2:00
03. Flute In A Quarry 7:11
04. Together 3:20
05. El Topo's Dream 2:29
06. Slowest & Saddest Waltz 4:10
07. Freakout #1 11:20

Acoustic Guitar [12 Strings], Guitar [Rhythm] – Peter Walsh
Acoustic Guitar [6 Strings], Guitar [Lead] – Jackie King
Bass [Acoustic], Bass [Upright Electric], Cowbell, Tambourine – Eddie Adams
Bass [Electric 6 Strings Acoustic, Fender] – Roger 'Jellyroll' Troy
Congas, Triangle – Ivory Smylie
Cowbell, Flute, Saxophone [Alto & Tenor], Scratches – Martin Fierro
Drums – Jerry Love
Drums, Scratches – Jack Dorsey
Electric Piano, Organ – Howard Wales
Flute, Tenor Saxophone – Hadley Caliman, Mel Martin
Maracas, Saxophone [Alto & Tenor] – Frank Morin
Maracas, Trumpet, Trombone, Tambourine – Ken Balzell
Piano [Acoustic] – Jymm Young
Trumpet, Tambourine – Luis Gasca

The mysterious Shades of Joy recorded the wholly instrumental album The Music of El Topo in San Francisco, the LP finding release on the Douglas label in 1970. Co-produced by Alan Douglas (famous for his controversial posthumous work on some Jimi Hendrix material), it's an odd but listenable mix of early jazz-rock fusion, psychedelia, funk, and the kind of meditatively somber and pretty music you might expect to hear on the soundtrack to a period drama. And in fact most of the compositions are credited to film director Alejandro Jodorowsky, who was responsible for the early-'70s cult film El Topo. Fifteen musicians are credited with playing on the album, the most noted of them being occasional Grateful Dead/Jerry Garcia sideman Howard Wales (on electric keyboards), though there are also numerous percussionists, brassmen, and flutists; in fact, there are three combination flutist/tenor saxophonists alone. (Jodorowsky himself does not play any of the music, however.) Martin Fierro (who played flute, tenor sax, alto sax, and cowbells, as well as being credited as a "scratcher") seems to have been the musician most involved with the project, also doing the orchestration and horn arrangements. The Music of El Topo, incidentally, is an entirely different album than the Apple-issued El Topo soundtrack, for which Jodorowsky got composing credit for all of the music.

Recorded in San Francisco in 1970 and originally released on the Douglas label, obscure Shades of Joy's Music Of El Topo is commonly associated with the visionary western-on-acid epic film El Topo by Chilean born Ukrainian Jewish multi-medial artist Alejandro Jodorowsky as its soundtrack, despite another unrelated album on the Apple label being credited as the true soundtrack to the flick. Nevertheless, this intriguing piece of urban jazz funk fusion delivers seven instrumental mantras whose core is neatly amalgamated by the fine art of a great ensemble, here together only for this seemingly extemporized job. The idea of 'soundtrack' is here superbly interpreted and leaves the listener puzzled about the short life of this incredible gathering of exceptional musicians

Don't make the mistake of picking up the awful 'soundtrack' version of this album on Apple Records - it's not the same at all! This is the excellent original music, composed by Alexandro Jodorowsky and played by an all-star band. The band include the superb Grateful Dead (and rare funk record) keyboard genius Howard Wales among others, so you'd expect it to be good. It is. Excellent, well-produced, chunky organ-fuelled beaty jazzy funk with rock overtones. The best track is the excellent jazzy organ flute-funk 'Desert Is A Circle', as featured on the Mood Mosaic compilation series. Hard to find but well worth it. 

Shades of Joy - 1969 - Shades of Joy

Shades of Joy
Shades of Joy

01. Icarus Revealed 3:30
02. Come And Throw The Rye Bread 2:53
03. Crying Bag 2:35
04. 4th Stride 6:40
05. It's Time 4:25
06. Bye, Bye Love 4:10
07. Andy's Dream 4:10
08. Blues For Millie 6:23
09. Tada 3:28

Bass – Edward Adams
Drums, Tambourine – Jose Rodriguez
Effects [Sound], Violin [One String] – Lee Charlton
Guitar, Sitar – Jackie King
Piano, Flugelhorn – Jymm Young
Saxophone [Alto Tenor, Soprano], Flute, Vocals – Martin Fierro
Vocals – Millie Foster

Shades of Joy was a short-lived supergroup of a bunch of hippies jamming out some funky, trippy, and soothing grooves on a plethora of instruments. It's a mystery who was actually in this loose-knit group but supposedly Jerry Garcia was part of it. If you notice on the cover it says "arranged and conducted by Martín Fierro". After a little research I learned that Martín Fierro was a saxophonist who played with not just The Dead but also The String Cheese Incident, David Grisman, Yonder Mountain String Band, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Sir Douglas Quintet, and the Allman Brothers, just to name a few- holy cow. Sadly, Matín Fierro aka "The Meester" passed away just last year.

Friendly cocktail vocal jazz/faux-Tropicalia/vocal blues/primitive (read: dull) jazz-rock. I grabbed this after hearing of their Music of El Topo album (which I'm listening to next), but nothing I've read about the music of that album is applicable to the music on this one.

The exception is 4th Stride, which goes back and forth between the aforementioned polite jazz and some much, much more out there territory. But it's one track out of nine.

Hiatus - 1984 - Avant-Demain


01. Bleu Outremer 7:13
02. Même Si 8:09
03. Farfadet 6:15
04. Dans L'Escalier 2:27
05. Qui Vole Un Œuf Vole Un Œuf 11:14
06. Rock Saoudite

Recorded At – Studio Bob Mathieu, Montgeron
Mixed At – Studio Bob Mathieu, Montgeron
Originally privately issued as HI 5893 in 1984 and then by Cryonic Inc. MAD 3014 in 1985

Bass – Pascal Gutman
Drums, Producer – Jean François Riviere
Guitar, Producer – Franck Marsicano
Keyboards, Producer – Stephane Deschamps
Tenor Saxophone, Producer – Abdoulaye Fall

French experimental jazz-fusion band. They made just the one self-produced album, which (due to its Zeuhl edges) gained a reissue on the Cryonic label alongside Art Zoyd and others.

Somewhere between French Zeuhl and Avant-Garde/Jazz with some King Crimson guitar abnormalities thrown in.Hiatus operated as a five-piece band with Pascal Gutman on bass, Jean-Francois Riviere on drums, Franck Marsicano on guitar, Stephane Deschamps on keyboards and Abdoulaye Fall on sax and their obscure album ''Avant-Demain'' (1984, private) passes through intense experimentations, dissonances, smooth atmospherics and complex guitar fests, featuring also lots of sax battles, acoustic piano and synthesizer.Mostly lengthy pieces with a freak-out jazzy instrumental sound, consisting of odd rhythms, instrumental isolations and improvisations, industrial acoustics and some great interactions of three instruments.Superb bass work as well and a unique album in its own way.The Zeuhl tendencies were enough for the 80's label Cryonic to re-release the album the next year.

Lagrima - 1978 - Lagrima


01. Nacimiento
02. Busqueda
03. Ancestros
04. Encuentro
05. Canción Para Un Hijo
06. Influencia
07. Propuesta

Bass Guitar – Guillermo Reuter
Vocals, Percussion – Chango Farias Gomez
Bandoneon – Juán José Mosalini
Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar – Tommy Gubitsch
Flute, Alto Saxophone – Enzo Gieco
Piano, Electric Piano, Synthesizer – Gustavo Beytelmann
Quena, Moceño, Charango, Sampona – Sergio Arriagada

Artwork – Napo

Seven man Argentine band exiled France. Lagrima plays a leisurely and thoughtful progressive folk with bandoneon with an abundance of traditional wind instruments and on the other (at the same time) traditional pianos, vibraphones, saxes, flute, guitars, bass and synths. Reminds me of some of the folkier moments of Arco Iris, MIA and Rodolfo Mederos y Generacion Cero (Gubitsch also played on one of his albums) Recommended listening!

If you find it, buy it, even if it's only for the gorgeous cover art by Argentinean illustrator and tarot card designer Napo!

Moonstruck - 1976 - Moonstruck


01. Opus 1
02. Slidin'
03. Rondo In G Major
04. Cog
05. My Mother Forgot To Tie My Shoes This Morning
06. Oceans Notions
07. Dance Of The Aardvarks
08. The Joker And The King
09. Gord's Tune
10. Interlude In F Major
11. A Space In Time
12. Invention
13. Heather

Gordon Tucker (Guitar, Bass, Vocals)
Daniel Iceton (Drums)
William Wallingham (Guitar, Bass, Flute)
Tony Murphy (piano, mellotron).

* Original founding members, drummer Dean MacDonald and bassist Bo Hanson left the band just before this album was recorded.

Lunatunes Records SAR-2003,  1976 original issue Private pressing (Canada)
Very rare mid 70's Private pressing from Nova Scotia (Canada).

Instrumental Progressive Rock with strong guitar, flutes, piano and some mellotron with Jazzy overtones (their sole release). Starting off as a cover band in Eastern Canada, Moonstruck quickly morphed into a tight progressive outfit playing small live gigs in the region.   However, without a recording contract, the group privately recorded/pressed these 13 tracks at Solar Audio & Recording (*SAR) studios in Halifax, composing all their own tracks, self-producing and self-financing the effort on their own "Lunatunes" label, reportedly pressing only around 500 copies.
Solar is well known in Canadian vinyl collectors' circles for having pressed some of Canada's rarest LP's to come out of the Atlantic provinces (Blue Max, Happy Dolls, Moonstruck, Molly Oliver (EP), etc).

Friday, October 26, 2018

Heavy Joker - 1978 - Caesar's Palace

Heavy Joker 
Caesar's Palace

01. Caesar's Palace 6:05
02. Rainy Day 5:50
03. Blue Counterpoint 5:40
04. Heavy Duty 3:00
05. Wet Dreams 2:10
06. No Joking 6:50
07. Mama 4:30

Alto Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone, Lyricon – Jens Haack
Bass – Henrik Bødtcher
Drums, Kalimba, Percussion, Chimes– Jan Sivertsen
Piano, Clavinet, Synthesizer, Strings – Jørgen Kaufmann

Recorded at Werner Scherrer Studio, Dec. 1977.
Mastered at The Music Center, Wembley-London.

Warm and slick, this smooth jazz album is similar to the American group Spyro Gyra. The first album is MUCH better. Quite mellow Fusiony stuff, dosent realy have the edge to grab me but saying that it's nice enoth to be on in the background without being totaly boring.

Heavy Joker - 1976 - Heavy Joker

Heavy Joker 
Heavy Joker

01. Ace Of Spades 3:10
02. That's It! 5:00
03. Heavy Joke 3:30
04. Canasta Funk 2:35
05. Ambrosia 5:50
06. Symphonia 19:55
 a. Highway Habits
 b. Leaving For Cala Bassa
 c. Suburban Heaven
 d. Transylvania Chase

Bass – Henrik Bødtcher
Congas, Percussion – Klaus Nordsø (tracks: B1b)
Drums, Percussion – Jan Sivertsen
Grand Piano, Organ, Electric Piano, Vibraphone, Marimba – Max Leth Jun.
Guitar, Strings – Michael Bruun
Keyboards – Kasper Winding (tracks: A2)
Soprano Saxophone – Jesper Nehammer (tracks: B1d)
Strings – Palle Mikkelborg (tracks: A3)
Tenor Saxophone – Anders Gårdmand (tracks: A4), Jesper Nehammer (tracks: B1c)

Heavy Joker was a Danish short-lived Jazz/Fusion act. Started out as a Tyggegummibanden (mid 70's rock and cover songs pop band that released three albums) side project band for members Michael Bruun, Henrik Bødtcher (both ex Thor Hammer, Henrik also of Buki-Yamaz fame) and Jan Sivertsen, who would all co-found Tøsedrengene after Heavy Joker's second and final album.

The opening side of the LP contains five tracks, each credited to a different member and guest keyboardist Kasper Winding, with ''Canasta Funk'' featuring also sax player Anders Gardmand.The music is mostly excellent, keyboard-based Prog/Fusion with also some fiery guitar at moments and plenty of shifting moods, ranging from breezy Fusion with dominant synths to Canterbury-styled jazzy Prog with powerful keyboard work, electric piano and fast tempos.Still Heavy Joker's approach reveals a strong melodic content at moments as in ''Heavy Joke'' and ''Ambrosia'', characterized by light symphonic FOCUS-like melodious themes and great keyboard/piano treatments.The flipside contains the great long 20-min. instrumental opus ''Symphonia'', composed by Max Leth Jun and divided in four parts.It marks no significant changes to the style already presented, maybe the guitars of Michael Bruun and the keyboard overtones have a Latin-flavor at moments, but the overall approach is demanding still easy-listening Prog/Fusion with superb diversity and strong presence of percussion, sax, vibraphone and marimba.From keyboard-led interventions to jazzy sax solos and from ethnic tunes to virtuosic solos, ''Symphonia'' is a decent and tight instrumental journey, mixing the aesthetics of Jazz and Prog/Fusion in equal doses.

Very good, still pretty unknown debut by these Danish masters, with both technical and melodic parts.Strongly recommended, and even more if you are deep into jazzy Prog.

Buki-Yamaz - 1978 - Live


01. Sweet Sommer 3:03
02. Rainflower 5:12
03. Sesul 2:44
04. Some Solos 5:25
05. Strange Woman 5:11
06. Afroiden 11:00
07. Shufflin' 6:25
08. Funny Feelin' 5:05

Recorded live in Denmark 24th Sept. - 8th Oct. 1977 by Sweet Silence Studio.

Bass – Kim Yarbrough
Congas, Percussion – Klavs Nordsø
Drums, Timbales – Jeppe Reipurth
Flute – Aske Bentzon
Guitar – Kim Sagild, Mikkel Nordsø
Piano [Fender, Arp, Yamaha Grand] – Ben Besiakov

Buki-Yamaz - 1976 - Segundo


01. Moonfighter
02. Rain Flower
03. Lazy Bones
04. Trade Winds
05. Zingaro
06. A Hunk Of Funk
07. Your Beauty Is Devine
08. St. May

Kim Sagild - Lead Guitar
Mikkel Nordsø - Lead Guitar
Aske Bentzon - Flute
Henrik Bødtcher - Bass
Ethan Weisgaard - Drums
Klavs Nordsø - Percussion

Additional Performers:
Jesper Nehammer - Tenor Sax (06)
Kasper Vinding - Piano (01)
Palle Mikkelborg - Fender Rhodes (02), Trumpet (06)
Ben Besiakow - Fender Rhodes (03,06), Piano (03)

String Section:
Kaspar Vinding - Conductor, Arranger (01,07,08)
Palle Mikkelborg - Conductor, Arranger (02)
Per Walther - Strings
Erik Vedel Petersen - Strings
Boris Samsing - Strings
Bent Jørgensen - Strings
Niels Peter Gudbergsen - Strings
Ivan Leth - Strings
Willy Jensen - Strings
Kurt Jensen - Strings
Finn Ziegler - Strings
Jørgen Haslev - Strings
Lars Holm Johansen - Strings
Lucyna Lange - Strings
Erwin Jacobsen - Oboe

Additional Contributors:
Stig Kreutzfeldt - Engineer
Aske Bentzon - Producer
Leif Roden - Co-Producer

Recorded July - August 1976 at Sweet Silence Studio, Copenhagen, Denmark

Liner Notes:

It is too easy for young musicians today to succumb to the commercial pressures that weigh down so heavily upon the music business, so it is refreshing and rewarding when one realizes that there are still young players who will fly in the face of fashion and produce music that they believe in rather than stuff that might bring instant fame and riches.

Buki-Yamaz are such a band of bold hopefuls who stick to their musical guns and won't compromise their standards. They have the technical expertise and capability to churn out chart pop to order, and could easily retire to the sanctity of the recording studios to channel their musical skills into unworthy projects.

Instead they concentrate on instrumental music that allows them freedom of writing and playing expression. But this does not mean they wish to be introverted and produce inaccessible music.
For Buki-Yamaz are lovers of melody as typified by the flowing string sounds on the beautiful performance of their composition "Rain Flower" featured on Side One. This melodic aspect stems from arranger and composer Aske Bentzon, who plays the romantic flute solos that give Buki-Yamaz music its flavour and identity.

Most of the music revolves around the sensuous flute sounds that pick out neatly constructed songs like "Lazy Bones", which is redolent of hot Summer days spent lying in the long grass observing the buzzing of bees and perhaps the passing of young girls' legs.

Aske is joined in his venture by some fine players. Aged between 19 and early twenties, they have only been together for 3 years, and yet they have a calm assurance and sophisticated style one might expect from much older and more experienced musicians.

Ethan Weisgaard on drums can handle a whole variety of approaches, from the solid back-beat required for funk drumming to the subtle Latin American rhythms of the exhilerating "Trade Winds", that opens Side Two. Cowbells and Klavs Nordsø's extra percussion give a bright lift to proceedings and provide a firm base for solo flights by two fine guitar players, Kim Sagild and Mikkel Nordsø, who contrast in styles, one slightly harder in attack, the other more supple and fluid. And helping the
swinging feel that pervades this collection of sophisticated arrangements is the bass playing of Henrik Bødtcher.

My personal favourite is the jazz-flavoured "Zingaro", where the flute lines are woven in unison with spare acoustic guitar picking over some very attractive chords.

The band are by no means mindless bashers who rely on brute force and volume for their effect, and their music must come in bright contrast to the more obvious route taken by so many so-called heavy metal groups. Buki-Yamaz like to build atmosphere and create pastoral tones, and with this second album Segundo, they will find a ready audience for those who believe rock and melody are compatible.

And it will prove to those who think Scandinavia can only produce successful commercial pop groups, that there are young musicians aplenty waiting for an opportunity to show they have the talent to compete with the best in European jazz and rock.

Just listen to the drive of "A Hunk Of Funk" and you'll hear a band itching to blow. Now is your chance to share their excitement.
 -- Chris Welch (Melody Maker)

Buki-Yamaz - 1975 - Buki-Yamaz


01. Hot Funk 5:37
02. Buki-Yamaz 5:49
03. Mambo For Lone 3:25
04. The One I Love 3:31
05. Do The B.Y. 2:28
06. Some Stardust From Cosmos 4:52
07. Brasilian Grass 3:58
08. Heavy Chops 2:27
09. Pescador 4:07
10. Mysterious Funk 2:53
11. Travel To Paradise 2:55

Recorded at Easy Sound Studios July 1975.
Track B6 recorded at Sound Track Studios February 1975.

Bass – Henrik Bødtcher
Congas, Percussion – Klavs Nordsø
Drums – Ethan Weisgard
Flute – Aske Bentzon
Guitar – Kim Sagild, Mikkel Nordsø
Percussion, Synthesizer [String] – Kasper Winding
Saxophone – Anders Gårdmand, Jens Haack
Synthesizer – Kenneth Knudsen
Synthesizer [String Man] – Ben Besiakov

Buki Yamaz was a Danish Latin / Jazz / Funk group, inspired by Latin American music and Miles Davis. Some of the group members met at a music summer school in Vallekilde in 1970. The group started when the Nordsø, Mikkel and Klavs brothers expanded their quartet, “Frederiksberg Blues Orchestra”, with two members, Kasper Winding and Henrik Bødtcher: The six-man band Buki Yamaz became in 1973. The first performance for a larger audience was in 1974 at the Multimusik Festival in Randers and at Roskilde Festival in 1974. Their first release from Christmas 1975, called Buki-Yamaz, the record companies had difficulty accepting because there was no song. Kasper Winding was Buki Yamaz’s first drummer, and when he stopped in January 1975, Ethan Weisgard took over the job and he participated in the first two recordings. After the second LP, Ethan Weissgard and Henrik Bødtcher left the group in late 1976 and were replaced by Kim Yarbrough and Ben Besiakov.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

3PM - 1980 - Better Late Than Never

Better Late Than Never

01. Banana Daquin'
02. Knuf
03. Blues Epilog
04. One Step Ahead
05. A River Of Ears
06. Better Late Than Never

Bass, Synthesizer – Jerry Peek
Drum, Percussion – Doug Morgan
Guitar – John Wheliss
Guitar, Synthesizer – Bernie Petteway

Never heard of this Raleigh based fusion group?  Don't feel bad, not many have but this little gem from the early 80's is excellent.  There's some influence from Allan Holdsworth and Frank Zappa, which is rarely a bad thing. and two of their guys (Jerry and Doug) went on to form the first incarnation of the Steve Morse Band

The music is an eclectic mix of fusion, funk, prog and hard rock, and I gotta say, this caught me off guard. This is some damn good stuff, how come I've never heard of these guys before? The album starts off with "Banana Daquiri" a good solid song and a nice album opener that more or less showcases all of what they have in store. There's some heavy dual lead guitars, funky basslines and drumming, but it isn't quite as heavy as some of the other tracks and a bit cheesy in places. "Knuff" follows, a decent track but nothing too special. It has that early 80's cheesy jazz-fusion vibe which I normally enjoy, but here it just seems out of place and not really these guys' strong suit. It's passable, and not terrible or even bad by any means, but it's far from the best track here.

And now we get to "Blues Epilog", a fuckin' monster of an almost 7 minute track that's heavy as hell with near insanity levels of awesome dual guitar work, heavy funky basslines, and fantastic complex drum work. A five star song, no doubt. Starting side B is "One Step Ahead" which is... well, bad. After about 2 minutes of it I picked up the needle and manually moved it to the next song. It's lame, incredibly cheesy, and feels like it belongs on a cruise ship deck and certainly not on this album. The only good thing about it is it's the shortest track here.

"A River of Ears" on the other hand, is another of my favorites from this album. It's just as good as "Blues Epilog" for all the same reasons. Heavy guitars, fantastic playing all around, and more prog elements this time and varied instruments. Another 5 star track. Finishing off the album, "Better Late Than Never" is another great track. While not as good as "Blues Epilog" or "A River of Ears", it's still a fantastic track with probably the most prog elements of any song on the album, it's just not QUITE as heavy and in-your-face as some of the songs here. Still very good, and a great album closer.

Sadly overlooked, if you ever find a copy of this definitely buy it. 

Sugarloaf - 1973 - I Got A Song

I Got A Song

01. I Got A Song 5:10
02. Myra, Myra 5:12
03. Lay Me Down 6:45
04. Wild Child 4:03
05. Lookin' For Some Fun 4:11
06. Round And Round 3:33
07. We Could Fly So High 3:32
08. Easy Evil 3:59
09. Colorado Jones 3:30
10. I Got A Song (Reprise) 2:43

Bass – Bob "Ray Danger" Raymond
Drums – Larry Ferris
Guitar – Bob Webber
Vocals, Organ, Piano, Clavinet – Jerry Corbetta

Decent, solid but pretty standard early 70's mainstream AOR with a strong Prog flavor (..lots of Hammond Organ). Best stuff is on side one...especially "Myra Myra" which is a first class Pop/Prog semi-instrumental.

I was originally looking for the original issue of the 1973 "I Got a Song" Lp, but ultimately the 1975 "Don't Call Us, We'll Call You" (Van Halen used to cover this track in their early days!) issue I found instead is better value as the title track here is much stronger than the track "Easy Evil" on the earlier issue that was sacrificed to make room for it. and then I found and posted the CD version that has both Enjoy!

Sugarloaf - 1971 - Spaceship Earth

Spaceship Earth

01. Spaceship Earth (4:27)
02. Hot Water (4:10)
03. Rusty Cloud (3:01)
04. I Don't Need You Baby (5:11)
05. Rollin' Hills (3:36)
06. Mother Nature's Wine (2:58)
07. Country Dawg (2:36)
08. Woman (4:19)
09. Music Box (2:28)
10. Tongue in Cheek (7:39)

Jerry Corbetta / Vocals
Rob Webber / Guitars
Bob Raymond / Bass
Bob Yeazel / Guitars
Bob MacVitte / Drums

We all know this Denver-based band for the 1970 hit "Green-Eyed Lady", which you can find the full version on their 1970 debut. Shortly after their debut the group brought in Bobby Yeazel, which helped the band focus entirely on originals this time (the debut had some originals, but a bunch of covers too). Also the songs are shorter. I actually find this album better than their debut, because they went for tighter compositions and not so much stuff that meanders. This album is really all over the place musically, but surprisingly well focused for a band pulling something like that off. The title track is a great prog number, while "Hot Water" is a heavy number, with some great organ playing. "Rusty Cloud" has a bit of a Southern Rock feel. "Rollin' Hills" is no doubt the work of an American band, with that folk/country/blues feel. "Mother Nature's Wine" was an attempt at another "Green Eyed Lady", complete with that same Hammond organ playing and clavinet, but as you know, it was never a hit. "Woman" features some great vocal harmonies. "Music Box" is basically a song about a person in love with the music box dancer, and the music imitates a music box, with the celeste, and the way the music slows down at the end like the music box slowing down after it was wound up. "Tongue in Cheek" is a rather heavy number. To me I found the album rather enjoyable, but for many progheads, I have to warn you: not everything here is prog, and the music is often very American, the vocals sound very American, because they were American (unlike, say Cathedral with Stained Glass Stories who went out of their way to sound like a British band, same for Starcastle or Fireballet). But I was surprised to enjoy the album as much as I do given the diverse styles explored here. Certainly the album didn't spawn a hit like "Green-Eyed Lady", but that didn't matter to me as this was quite good.

Sugarloaf - 1970 - Sugarloaf


01. Green-Eyed Lady (6:49)
02. The Train Kept-a-Rollin' (Stroll On) (1:23)
03. Medley: Bach Doors Man / Chest Fever (9:00)
04. West of Tomorrow (5:25)
05. Gold and the Blues (7:15)
06. Things Gonna Change Some (6:38)

Jerry Corbetta / Vocals
Rob Webber / Guitars
Bob Raymond / Bass
Veeder Von Dorn III / Guitars
Bob MacVitte / Drums

SUGARLOAF are from Colorado in the USA and are pretty much known as a one-hit-wonder because of the opening track "Green-Eyed Lady". This is their debut from 1970 and it's very much hit and miss for me and mostly the latter. I give it 3 stars though because of that opening song which has been a favourite of mine as long as I can remember. And really there's nothing on this album that sounds even close to "Green-Eyed Lady", it's like we get a different band for the rest of the album.
"Green-Eyed Lady" is an absolutely incredible track where i'm blown away by the drumming and bass work. Ditto for the organ play of band leader Jerry Corbetta who is also the singer. Such a proggy track and it has special meaning since i've been hanging out with a beautiful green-eyed lady for many years. Nice organ solo before 3 1/2 minutes then the guitar comes to the fore tastefully. It's awesome to have the almost 7 minute album version of this track because I never want it to end. "The Train Kept-A-Rollin" is a short instrumental cover of THE YARDBIRDS track. Yeah it's okay. "Medley : Bach Doors Man / Chest Fever" opens with an organ solo of that Bach tune reminding me of ELP before blending into another instrumental cover of THE BAND's "Chest Fever". Again this is all okay but does little for me.

"West Of Tomorrow" is a return of the vocals for the first time since the opening song. The organ is again prominant including a solo. It's a little dated but not bad. "Gold And The Blues" is pure blues with the organ, drums and guitar standing out. It's an instrumental and pretty good if your into the blues. I especially like the guitar. "Things Gonna Change Some" is my second favourite track. It's a vocal tune that has some tempo changes. A feel good song for me. I like the instrumental section in the middle where the guitar comes to the fore.

A good album I suppose but yeah one-hit-wonders is a deserved title for this band unfortunately.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Otis Rush... A tribute...

Otis Rush 
April 29, 1935 – September 29, 2018

Otis Rush, one of the pioneering guitarists of the Chicago blues scene, died Saturday September 29 from complications from a stroke he suffered in 2003. He was 84.

Rush’s wife, Masaki Rush, confirmed her husband’s death on his website. A note read, “Known as a key architect of the Chicago ‘West Side Sound’ Rush exemplified the modernized minor key urban blues style with his slashing, amplified jazz-influenced guitar playing, high-strained passionate vocals and backing by a full horn section. Rush’s first recording in 1956 on Cobra Records ‘I Can’t Quit You Baby’ reached Number on the Billboard R&B Charts and catapulted him to international acclaim. He went on to record a catalog of music that contains many songs that are now considered blues classics.”

Otis Rush was born in 1935 in Philadelphia, Mississippi, one of the most racially mixed towns in the Delta. In Rush’s youth the population of Philadelphia was almost equally divided between whites, blacks and Choctaw Indians. As a consequence, Philadelphia was also one of the most racist towns in Mississippi, a hotbed of Klan activity and, of course, site of the 1964 murders of civil rights workers Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner. In 1980, Reagan picked the Neshoba County Fair in Philadelphia as the locale  to give his first post-convention speech, an attack on the federal government that launched his own race-baiting “Southern Strategy.” J.L. Chestnut, one of two black people in the huge audience, recalled Ronald Reagan shouting  that “‘the South will rise again and this time remain master of everybody and everything within its dominion.’ The square came to life, the Klu (sic) Kluxers were shouting, jeering and in obvious ecstasy. God bless America.”

Like many black youths in the Delta, Otis sat near the radio every day at 12:15, tuning in to KFFA, broadcast out of Helena, Arkansas, for the King Biscuit Time show, hosted by Sonny Boy Williamson and Robert Lockwood, Jr. For half an hour Williamson and Lockwood played live in the studio, often featuring other rising stars of the blues, such as B.B. King, James Cotton and Pinetop Perkins (who was an original member of the studio band, called the King Biscuit Entertainers.) Otis decided he wanted to be a blues player. He began playing the blues harp at the age of six and later his father rigged him a makeshift one-string guitar out of a broom handle and baling wire.

Rush’s father was a sharecropper, toiling in the parched red clay soils of eastern Mississippi. But mechanization was slowly drawing this brutal way of life to a close. In 1948, Rush’s father moved the family (there were 8 Rush children) to Chicago. At the age of 14, Otis began working 12-hour days in the stockyards. At night he played the blues with two other young stockyard workers, Mike Netton, a drummer, and “Poor Bob” Woodfork, a guitar player recently migrated up from Arkansas. The band began to get some paying gigs in some of the new clubs springing up on Roosevelt Avenue.  One night when Rush was 18, Willie Dixon walked into the Alibi club on the West Side of town. Dixon, one of the true geniuses of American music, had just left Chess Records in a bitter dispute over royalties. The great bassist and arranger had taken a job with the new Cobra Records, a small Chicago label run by a TV repairman. Dixon was enthralled by Rush’s uniquely expressive, almost tortured guitar-style and signed him on the spot.

In the studio, Dixon, the real architect of the Chicago Blues sound, assembled a small talented R&B combo to back Rush, featuring Shakey Horton on harmonica, Harold Ashby on tenor, veteran drummer Odie Payne,  Little Brother Montgomery hammering the piano and Dixon himself on stand-up bass. The first song Rush recorded was Dixon’s “I Can’t Quit You, Baby.” Dixon said he wrote the song about an obsessive relationship Rush was having with a woman at the time. Dixon wanted to provoke an emotional response from the singer and he got one. “I Can’t Quit You, Baby” opens with a chilling falsetto scream, then Rush launches into a staccato guitar attack unlike anything heard before it. Led Zeppelin (and dozens of other bands) would cover Rush’s version of the song but never capture the excrutiating fervency of the original. The recording was released in the summer of 1956 as Cobra’s first single. The song hit number 6 on the Billboard R&B charts.

Over the next two years Rush and Dixon would release eight more records, each of them dazzlingly original. The sound was aggressive and confident, like the hard-charging jump blues “Violent Love,” where Rush’s slashing guitar chords seem to be engaged in a romantic combat with the horns. Rush’s own composition, “Checking on My Baby,” is an eerie, minor key blues that sweats sexual paranoia. This is not the blues of despondency and despair, but of defiance and, at times, rage. It’s music with an edge, sharpened by the metallic sounds of urban streets, of steel mills, jail cells and rail yards.

Despite hit singles from Rush, Magic Sam, Ike Turner and the Rhythm Kings and the young Buddy Guy (who Rush discovered at “Battle of the Blues” show at the famous Blue Flame Club), Cobra Records went bankrupt in 1958. Rush followed Willie Dixon back to Chess Records. This was the beginning of Rush’s seemingly endless professional odyssey, from label to label. Even with Dixon back in his slot as artistic director at Chess, Rush’s relationship with the label proved a disappointment. In two years, Rush recorded eight songs for Chess, but management only released one single, the brilliant “So Many Roads, So Many Trains,” featuring one of Rush’s most vicious guitar solos.

Feeling abused by Chess, Rush bolted in search of another label. He cut one hard rocking single, “Homework,” (later covered by Fleetwood Mac and J. Geils) for Duke Records and that was it for six very lean years. Rush hit the club circuit, performing two and three times a night, often in different venues. In those days Rush tended to close with one of his fiercest compositions, “Double Trouble”, a tormented minor key blues about a man who has lost his job and his lover. Rush plays the song with a nerve-racking intensity:

I lay awake at nights, false love, just so troubled
It’s hard to keep a job, laid off, having double trouble
Hey hey, yeah, they say you can make it if you try
Yes some of this generation is millionaires
It’s hard for me to keep decent clothes to wear

Otis Rush is the Thelonious Monk of the electric guitar: an uncompromising and eccentric genius who redefined the possibilities of his instrument. His playing is beautifully idiosyncratic. There is an existential quality to Rush’s solos, there are spaces in his runs, decision spaces, where notes are bent and left hanging in a state of suspension, before snapping back in an unnerving coherence. At his best, Rush’s playing conveys a gamut of emotions, often in a single song, from dread and anxiety to manic ecstasy. In a live setting, Rush’s playing could be erratic, one false note from collapse. That’s a huge part of his ingenuity, of course, his aptitude for sustaining such an acute intensity in his playing night after night. In those bleak years in the mid-1960s, when everyone had left him for dead, Otis Rush became a master of the hardboiled blues.

Albert King & Otis Rush
Door To Door

01. Searching For A Woman 3:00
02. Bad Luck 3:01
03. So Close 2:46
04. Howlin' For My Darling 3:03
05. I Can't Stop 2:13
06. Won't Be Hangin' Around 2:54
07. I'm Satisfied 2:20
08. All Your Love 2:54
09. You Know My Love 2:40
10. Merry Way 2:52
11. Wild Woman 2:38
12. Murder 2:55
13. So Many Roads 3:10
14. California Blues 2:47

Original US LP released in 1969 on Chess Records. Cat: CH1538.

Although Albert King is pictured on the front cover and has the lion's share of tracks on this excellent compilation, six of the fourteen tracks come from Rush's shortlived tenure with the label and are some of his very best. Chronologically, these are his next recordings after the Cobra sides and they carry a lot of the emotional wallop of those tracks, albeit with much loftier production values with much of it recorded in early stereo. Oddly enough, some of the material ("All Your Love," "I'm Satisfied [Keep on Loving Me Baby]") were remakes albeit great ones of tunes that Cobra had already released as singles! But Rush's performance of "So Many Roads" (featuring one of the greatest slow blues guitar solos of all time) should not be missed at any cost.

Albert King performs on eight of its 14 cuts, three from Parrot (recorded in Chicago in 1953) and the rest from St. Louis, 1961. The changes rung in King’s voice and guitar between those two sessions are merely miraculous. For Parrot, King’s singing was light and uninteresting, and the guitar sounds like somebody else was playing — one of those standard, characterless blues guitarists. (Only Johnny Jones on piano makes the three cuts worth listening to more than once.) Then you get to 1961, and damned if it ain’t A. King after all — mellow yet forced-out vocal, his straight-arrow guitar splitting the bulls-eye every time. Two songs are absolute sapphires: “Wild Woman,” with King’s fingers and vocal chords in a lively duet; and a get-it-on, can’t-sit-down, Howlin’ Wolf-Willie Dixon rocker, “Howlin’ for My Darling,” complete with trumpet, saxes, and staccato beat.

Otis Rush, another steel-string southpaw, handles the remaining numbers. Not so much on guitar, Rush makes it all the way to the top of the basis of his vocalizing, which manages to be strangled and painful, precise and lovely all at once. (He was overwhelmed and badly obscured by the poor Bloomfield-Gravenites production on his recent Cotillion album.) Rush recorded mostly for Cobra between 1956-1958, but he also cut several sides for Chess in 1960, six of them reissued or released for the first time on Door to Door. The two that matter most: “All Your Love,” a remake of his earlier Cobra hit — city blues with solid Latin rhythm from Willie Dixon and Odie Payne — and the all-time classic, “So Many Roads.” Along with “I Can’t Quit You Baby,” that superb number guarantees Rush immortality; the band is completely together, and Rush literally chokes with emotion — but beautifully!

Otis Rush
Mourning in the Morning

01. Me 2:55
02. Working Man 2:25
03. You're Killing My Love 3:00
04. Feel So Bad 3:39
05. Gambler's Blues 5:39
06. Baby, I Love You 3:09
07. My Old Lady 2:11
08. My Love Will Never Die 4:33
09. Reap What You Sow 4:54
10. It Takes Time 3:26
11. Can't Wait No Longer 3:52

Baritone Saxophone – Ronald Eades
Bass – Gerry Jemmott
Drums – Roger Hawkins
Guitar – Duane Allman, Jimmy Johnson
Guitar, Vocals – Otis Rush
Keyboards – Barry Beckett, Mark Naftalin
Tenor Saxophone – Aaron Varnell, Joe Arnold
Trumpet – Gene "Bowlegs" Miller

In 1969, after nearly 14 years of constant gigging in small blues clubs and cutting scorching singles for obscure labels, songs that received limited radio play but were greedily snatched up by young white rockers desperate to learn the rudiments of the Chicago blues, it looked like Otis Rush was about to finally get his due. Rush had just been signed by the notorious Albert Grossman, then the manager of Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin and Peter, Paul and Mary. Grossman told Rush that he had landed him a recording deal with Atlantic Records.

Rush headed down to Muscle Shoals, Alabama to record one of the first sessions at the soon-to-be-famous studio out on Jackson Highway. The album, Mourning in the Morning, was produced by two other musicians from Chicago who idolized Rush, Michael Bloomberg and Nick Gravenites. Bloomfield, one of the more authentic white blues guitar-players, and Gravenites were then heading the short-lived jam band Electric Flag. Bloomfield  had convinced Grossman to sign Rush, telling the portly manager that he was the Jimi Hendrix of the blues.  Like Hendrix, Rush was a lefty. Unlike Hendrix,  Rush usually played  a left-handed guitar with the order of the strings reversed, featuring the low E string on the bottom. The Rush sound was striking lyrical and, though many tried, nearly inimitable.

The new Muscle Shoals Studio had been founded by some of the best session players in the south: keyboardist Barry Beckett, bassist David Hood, guitar player Johnny Johnson and drummer Roger Hawkins.  By 1969, the Muscle Shoals Rhythm section had already backed some of the best music made by Percy Sledge, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Picket and Etta James. Hawkins, a native of Indiana, is widely regarded as one of the sturdiest drummers in the history of rock music.

When Rush showed up in Alabama in the spring of 1969, Duane Allman greeted him at the studio and showered him with praise, telling Rush he was the equal of the immortal B. B. King. Allman ended up playing on a few tracks, including the haunting instrumental cover of Aretha’s “Baby, I Love You.”

The album met with hostile reviews. Most of the blame has to be placed on Granventes and Bloomfield, who freighted the record with six of their own songs, including two irredeemable stinkers, “Me” and “My Old Lady.” Inexplicably, the clunky “Me” opens the album, souring the entire experience. In retrospect, there’s some fine playing on the record, particularly on the devastating cover of B. B. King’s “Gambler’s Blues” and the Minister of Stroll Chuck Willis’s “Feel So Bad,” which, with Rush’s spine-tingling vibrato, lethally cuts even Elvis’s version. The problem with the album as a whole is there’s far too Bloomfield and not nearly enough Otis Rush. Rush is one of the best songwriters in the history of the blues. After all, he learned at the feet of  Willie Dixon. But Bloomfield and Granventes  allowed Rush to record only one of his own songs on the album, “My Love Will Never Die,” which had made a splash on the R&B charts in 1959. The record failed to capture the menacing and intense sound of Rush in a live setting—or even the Cobra singles recorded in that primitive studio where the West Side blues was born.

In the wake of the dismal reviews, sales of “Mourning in the Morning” floundered and executives at Atlantic suddenly terminated Rush’s contract. Rush, who has battled depression his entire life, returned to Chicago, distraught and angry. As Eric Clapton, Dave Mason and Peter Green were ripping off his licks for hit singles, Rush was back on the West Side, playing bars and blues joints for cash and tips and making the occasional festival appearance, often backed by an inept band of hastily assembled local musicians.

Otis Rush
Screamin' And Cryin'

01. Looking Back 5:20
02. You Gonna Need Me 7:49
03. It's My Own Fault 7:11
04. I Can't Quit You Baby 5:34
05. Every Day I Have The Blues 5:52
06. A Beautiful Memory 7:50

Bass Guitar – James Green 
Drums – Bob Plunkett
Guitar – Jimmy Dawkins
Guitar, Vocals – Otis Rush
Organ – Jerome Van Jones
Piano – Jerome Van Jones (tracks: B1), Sunnyland Slim (tracks: A1), Willie Mabon

Recorded on November 26th 1974 at Barclay Studio.

Otis Rush's crunching guitar and vocals were never more emphatic than during the '70s when it seemed that he would actually find the pop attention and mass stardom he deserved. These mid-'70s tracks were originally cut for the Black and Blue label, with Rush playing grinding, relentless riffs and creating waves of sonic brilliance through creatively repeated motifs, jagged notes, and sustained lines and licks, while hollering, screaming, moaning, and wailing. Jimmy Dawkins, an outstanding lead artist in his own right, has also long been one of Chicago's great rhythm artists and shows it by adding plenty of tinkling, crackling figures and lines in the backgrounds. While not as consistently riveting as his live Evidence date, this one is also a valuable Rush document.

Otis Rush
Blues Live!

01. Mean Old World
02. All Your Love
03. Will My Woman Be Home Tonight?
04. Everyday I Have The Blues
05. Lookin' Back
06. Gambler's Blues
07. Three Times A Fool
08. So Many Roads
09. I Can't Quit You Baby

Otis Rush - vocals, guitar
Jimmy Johnson - guitar
Sylvester Boines - bass
Tyrone Century - drums

Recorded: July 20 & 29, 1975

This is definitely one for any blues collection, especially if you like Chicago blues from the westside. I'm not sure I agree with the comment about Otis's timing, he sounds pretty good to my ears. The band gets to work after the opening instrumental, and Otis begins to open it up....this was a great band, having Jimmy Johnson( love the Barroom Preacher ) with him is pretty cool! But it's all about that voice, I can't hear him sing " All Your Love( I Miss Loving ) " too many times and it's wonderful here, and he just kills " Gambler Blues ", stinging guitar with his big vibrato and endless TONE!!! There's not, in my opinion, a lot of great Otis Rush albums, but this IS one of the great ones....

Otis Rush
Cold Day In Hell

01. Cut You Loose 3:40
02. You're Breaking My Heart 8:00
03. Midnight Special 4:26
04. Society Woman 6:32
05. Mean Old World 3:43
06. All You Love I Miss Loving / Jam 6:32
07. Cold Day In Hell 6:19
08. Motoring Along 3:08

Baritone Saxophone – Chuck Smith
Bass – Bob Strokes (tracks: A1, A3, A4, B1), James Green (tracks: A2, B2, B3, B4)
Guitar – Bob Levis (tracks: A2, B2, B3, B4), Mighty Joe Young (tracks: A1, A3, A4, B1)
Organ, Piano – Big Moose Walker
Saxophone [Tenor] – Abb Locke
Vocals, Guitar – Otis Rush

Recorded At – Sound Studios, Chicago. April 29 & May 29, 1975

Guts. That's what this record is all about: Otis Rush's days in hell, and the tentative joys of returning above ground. Everything about Otis Rush says guts: his squeezing, piercing guitar, his raw-boned, blood-tinged vocals, his lyrics, full of a profound sense of the trips men and women lay on each other - and most of all, his courage to open up from the inside and let all this out in his music. Original 1975 recording with Abb Locke, Big Moose, Mighty Joe Young and others.

Otis Rush
Right Place, Wrong Time

01. Tore Up 3:17
02. Right Place, Wrong Time 5:24
03. Easy Go 4:41
04. Three Times A Fool 3:11
05. Rainy Night In Georgia 3:55
06. Natural Ball 3:30
07. I Wonder Why 4:41
08. Your Turn To Cry 3:35
09. Lonely Man 2:50
10. Take A Look Behind 5:40

Alto Saxophone – Hart McNee
Bass Guitar – Doug Killmer, John Kahn
Drums – Bob Jones 
Organ – Ira Kamin
Piano – Mark Naftalin
Rhythm Guitar – Fred Burton
Tenor Saxophone – Ron Stallings
Trumpet – John Wilmeth
Vocals, Guitar – Otis Rush

Recorded at Wally Heider's Studio, San Francisco, February 1971. 

This recording session was not released until five years after it was done. One can imagine the tapes practically smoldering in their cases, the music is so hot. Sorry, there is nothing "wrong" about this blues album at all. Otis Rush was a great blues expander, a man whose guitar playing was in every molecule pure blues. On his solos on this album he strips the idea of the blues down to very simple gestures (i.e., a bent string, but bent in such a subtle way that the seasoned blues listener will be surprised). As a performer he opens up the blues form with his chord progressions and use of horn sections, the latter instrumentation again added in a wonderfully spare manner, bringing to mind a master painter working certain parts of a canvas in order to bring in more light. Blues fans who get tired of the same old song structures, riff, and rhythms should be delighted with most of Rush's output, and this one is among his best. Sometimes all he does to make a song sound unlike any blues one has ever heard is just a small thing -- a chord moving up when one expects it go down, for example. The production is particularly skilled, and the fact that Capitol Records turned this session down after originally producing it can only be reasonably accepted when combined with other decisions this label has made, such as turning down the Doors because singer Jim Morrison had "no charisma." This record doesn't mess around at all. The first track takes off like the man they fire out of a cannon at the end of a circus, a perceived climax swaggeringly representing just the beginning, after all. Some of the finest tracks are the ones that go longer than five minutes, allowing the players room to stretch. And that means more of Rush's great guitar playing, of course. For the final track he leaves the blues behind completely for a moving cover version of "Rainy Night in Georgia" by Tony Joe White.

In late December of 1970, Rush got a call from Grossman, the man whom Dylan described as looking just like Sydney Greenstreet in The Maltese Falcon, telling the bluesman not to despair for he, Albert the Great, had just secured a five album deal for Rush with that titanic label on Hollywood and Vine, Capitol Records.

So in February of 1971 Rush flew to San Francisco to record the songs for the ill-fated album Right Place, Wrong Time. This time Rush co-produced the project with Gravenites and exerted himself in the roster of songs. The band featured some of the Bay Area’s best blues musicians, including guitarist Fred Burton, bass player Doug Killmer and piano player Mark Naftalin. Rush opens up red hot with a lacerating version of his pal Ike Turner’s “Tore Up,” where Rush seems to vent a decade’s worth of frustration with two brutal solos. The album also includes a chilling, heart-rending cover of Tony Joe White’s “Rainy Night in Georgia,” where Rush replaces his normal falsetto with a deep soulful voice like a gritty Otis Redding.

But the real gems of the album are Rush’s own compositions, including the brooding, shuffling title cut, which is a blues but perhaps unlike any blues you’ve every heard before, a song that bleeds bitter irony:  The album closes with the harrowing “Take a Look Behind,” where Rush demonstrates how absolutely he absorbed the B. B. King style and then ripped it up, transforming King’s bright, single-string runs into dark and ferocious riffs, each note stabbing like a stiletto at the vital chords of life.

Oh, yeah, looking back over our slate
I can see love turn to hate
But if I only had the chance
I say if I only had the chance
I’d never make the same mistake again

There’s not a misfire on the entire record. Each song, each solo is flawlessly constructed. The record was a masterpiece in an era awash with mediocre imitators of the Chicago blues style that Rush and his buddy Magic Sam Maghett on the West Side had perfected. By 1971, it was too late for Magic Sam, who was shockingly felled by a heart attack in 1969 at the age of 32, but it seemed certain that Rush, and by extension the West Side Blues, was at last going to enjoy the acclaim and perhaps even riches he deserved.

Then inexplicably the executives at Capitol, never the brightest bunch on the block, shelved the album, burying the landmark tapes deep in their vaults. Why did Capitol unjustly sabotage the legendary Otis Rush? One theory holds that the company was run by reactionary suits with little appreciation for musical innovation. This was, after all, the label that tried to kill off the Beatles in their infancy (see Dave Marsh’s merciless skewering of Capitol executives in The Beatles Second Album) and turned their collective nose up at the Doors because they thought Jim Morrison “lacked charisma.” The Lizard King may have yearned in vain for an adequate singing voice but nearly every pore in his body suppurated an evil kind of charisma.

Less charitably it might be speculated that Capitol executives, who presided over a predominantly white roster of talent, were innately suspicious of the blues and, more pointedly, black culture itself. Recall that Jimi Hendrix’s blistering song “Red House” was cut from the North American release of Are You Experienced? because the big shots at Track Records contended that “Americans don’t like the blues.”  Perhaps Capitol executives felt that Rush’s album was too black, too raw, too plaintively urgent. Perhaps they felt that such a record, about as far as you can get from Pet Sounds, would never sell to white audiences conditioned by the homogenized and anemic blues of Clapton or the ponderous thrashings of Led Zeppelin, whose early recordings ruthlessly pillaged the songbooks of Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters and Rush.

A frustrated and justifiably embittered Otis Rush had to battle the label for five years just to liberate his own tapes. Finally he had to buy them back. The album was released in 1976 on the tiny Bullfrog label. Sales were bleak. It did win a Grammy nomination in the category of “traditional” blues–a bizarre accolade to say the least, because even today, forty years later, the smoldering music captured on Right Place, Wrong Time screams its unyielding modernity, its intense relevance to life on the unforgiving streets of America.

Otis Rush
Troubles, Troubles

01. You Got Me Runnin'
02. Little Red Rooster
03. Whole Lot Of Lovin'
04. It's Got To Be Some Changes Made
05. You've Been An Angel
06. You Don't Have To Go
07. Troubles Troubles
08. I Miss You So
09. Hold Your Train
10. Same Old Blues

Bass – Bob Strokes
Drums – Jessie Lawis
Guitar – Bob Levis, Otis Rush
Producer – Sam Charters
Vocals – Jessie Lawis (tracks: B5), Otis Rush

Recorded at October 15 and 16, 1977.

Troubles, Troubles was originally recorded for Sonet, but is probably better known through its re-release as Lost in the Blues by Alligator. Lost in the Blues was justifiably criticized because of the decision to have Lucky Peterson overdub a bunch of keyboards in order to give it a more "contemporary" (read: more "Alligator") sound. This release is of the original album (with a couple bonus alternate takes) without all the overdubbing, and is a vast improvement over the Alligator version. But how does it stand as an Otis Rush album? It's a very good set -- perhaps "comfortable" says it best -- recorded with Rush's longstanding band of Bob Levis on rhythm guitar, Bob Stroger on bass, and Jesse Lewis Green on drums (despite what the package says). Recorded during an afternoon at a Stockholm studio while on tour, the band is tight and Rush's guitar and vocals are both in fine form, but the set seems to be lacking the fire that makes Otis Rush such a riveting performer when he's on his game. It's not really that he's going through the motions, because there is some passion to the performances. They just seem, well, comfortable, offering what's expected but little more on this set of covers (with none of Rush's signature tunes). Maybe it was the afternoon recording time, maybe it was the lack of an audience, but Rush just doesn't take it up to the next level the way he's able to. That's really the story of his recording career in microcosm. Considering his very inconsistent discography, you can put this one in the "good" column, but there are several Otis Rush albums you should own before this one.

Otis Rush
Live In Europe 

01. Cut You Loose 5:35
02. All Your Love I Miss Loving 6:45
03. You're Breaking My Heart 8:07
04. Crosscut Saw 4:40
05. I Can't Quit You Baby 4:40
06. I'm Tore Up 5:08
07. Looking Back 5:17


01. Cut You Loose 6:09
02. All Your Love 6:59
03. You're Breaking My Heart 8:25
04. I Wonder Why 8:43
05. Feel So Bad 5:13
06. Society Woman / Love Is Just A Gamble 7:40
07. Crosscut Saw 4:59
08. I Can't Quit You Baby 4:55
09. I'm Tore Up 5:25
10. Looking Back 5:38

Bass Guitar – Bob Stroger
Drums – Jesse Green 
Guitar, Vocals – Otis Rush
Rhythm Guitar – Bob Levis

Recorded live in Nancy on October 9, 1977

Otis Rush is the star-crossed guitar god, always in the right place at the wrong time. Close but no rock star.

That despite his role as a principal architect of the modern Chicago blues-guitar vernacular, and a memorably emotional style of singing that echoes some of the genre's most recognizable figures.

He's in his prime on “Live in Europe." Though a terrific concert of Rush's has more recently been issued, 2006's “Live and In Concert from San Francisco" (actually a 1999 date), I've found no more complete late-period testament to both this Mississippi native's ringing vibrato-flecked improvisations and his foundation-shaking intensity as a vocalist.

Recorded live on Oct. 9, 1977 in France, the sizzling date includes Bob Levis on rhythm, Bob Stroger on bass and Jesse Green at the drums. They are particularly effective in an update of Rush's “All Your Love," a rocking little rhumba that the guitarist legendarily wrote on the way to a recording date with Ike Turner's working group.

Even this superlative concert effort, alas, took a circuitous journey, failing to see release until 15 long years later on Evidence Records.

It all should have come easier.

Rush, a native of Nesoba County, Miss., started his blues trek working for Abco Records of Chicago's West Side as its juke joints and alley ways were crackling with the new city blues of Buddy Guy, Freddie King and Magic Sam. Rush had his first hit for the Abco subsidiary Cobra, the almost-scary moan of “I Can't Quit You Baby," (embedded below; a clear inspiration for Led Zeppelin). He played with future stars like Walter Horton, Little Brother Montgomery and Willie Dixon.

Yet he saw little of the profits, reportedly because of the label-owner's heavy gambling.

Dixon, a principal architect of the Chicago sound both as a bassist and composer, then signed Rush to the legendary Chess Records. Fewer than 10 singles emerged, notably “So Many Roads, So Many Trains," but none broke nationally.

A later stop at Duke was no more successful. Five years there produced just one single, 1962's “Homework." Same with a later stop at Capitol Records—which worked out pretty well for folks like Frank Sinatra and the Beatles, but was perhaps most notable for producing an album, yes, called “Right Place, Wrong Time."

Even that one, at least initially, went unreleased. (It has subsequently appeared on a series of minor labels, and could recently be found on HighTone.) He's had false starts with the Rooster Blues, Delmark, Blind Pig and House of Blues labels, too.

You just don't get that many opportunities to hear this bitingly incisive, too-soon-forgotten performer. That's a shame.

As a singer, Otis Rush was a neat amalgamation of B.B. King ("You're Breaking My Heart," included on “Live in Europe") and Freddie King ("I'm Tore Up," written by Turner). But Rush, a lefty, boasts a musical sound all of his own, a high-lonesome cry that—since he simply flips the guitar over, without restringing it—focuses on the high strings closer to his playing hand.

And the pent-up emotion of having endured so many stops and starts gives Rush a fierce buoyancy. On “Live in Europe," he plays chorus after shattering, brilliantly constructed chorus, sometimes nearly a dozen times, unwilling to let the moment go.

In this way, “Live In Europe" proves as vibrant as it is poignant. Rush kept trying for the big comeback over the years, even earning a well-deserved Grammy award for 1998's “Any Place I'm Going" but suffered a stroke five years later.

Otis Rush
I Can't Quit You Baby - The Cobra Sessions 1956-1958

Cobra Singles
01 I Can't Quit You Baby
02 Sit Down Baby
03 Violent Love
04 My Love Will Never Die
05 Groaning the Blues
06 If You Were Mine
07 Love that Woman
08 Jump Sister Bessie
09 Three Times a Fool
10 She's a Good 'Un
11 It Takes Time
12 Checking on My Baby
13 Double Trouble
14 Keep on Loving Me Baby
15 All Your Love
16 My Baby's a Good 'Un
Cobra Alternate Takes
17 I Can't Quit You Baby
18 I Can't Quit You Baby (take 3)
19 Sit Down Baby
20 My Love Will Never Die
21 Groaning the Blues
22 Groaning the Blues (Take 3)
23 Three Times a Fool
24 She's a Good 'Un (Take 4)
25 Keep on Loving Me Baby
26 Double Trouble
27 Double Trouble (Take 3)

Otis Rush, guitar, vocals
Shakey Horton, harmonica
Red Holloway, tenor sax
Lafayette Leake, piano
Wayne Bennett, guitar
Willie Dixon, bass
Al Duncan, drums
Little Walter, harmonica

The title says it all. This is the essential Otis Rush, the singles recorded for Eli Toscano's Cobra label between 1956 and 1958. If Rush had never recorded another note, his legendary status would remain intact based solely on these recordings. With backing from players like Willie Dixon and Little Walter, it's Rush's impassioned vocals and stinging guitar lines that make "I Can't Quit You Baby," "All Your Love (I Miss Loving)," and "Double Trouble" the classics they are. In addition to the A- and B-sides of all eight singles released by Cobra, eight alternate takes are included, four more than the Paula edition of this material released in 1991. Along with a slightly better transfer from the original tapes, this is not only one of the best places to start for someone getting interested in the blues, but a vital part of any blues collection. Outstanding.

Otis Rush
All Your Love I Miss Loving - Live At The Wise Fools Pub Chicago

01. Please Love Me 3:37
02. You're Breaking My Heart 7:42
03. All Your Love (I Miss Loving) 4:50
04. Will My Woman Be Home Tonight 4:00
05. Mean Old World 6:58
06. Woke Up This Morning 6:18
07. High Society 5:34
08. It Takes Time 3:28
09. Gambler's Blues 8:12
10. Feel So Bad 4:39
11. Sweet Little Angel 5:54
12. Motoring Along 3:22

Alto Saxophone – Chris "Barcelona Red" Mason (tracks: 8 to 12)
Bass – Bob Stroger
Drums – Jesse Green 
Electric Piano – Alberto Gianquinto
Rhythm Guitar – Bob Levis
Tenor Saxophone – Rawl Hardman (tracks: 8 to 12)
Vocals, Guitar – Otis Rush

Recorded At The Wise Fools Pub, January, 1976 by Ken Rasek

Despite deservedly being one of the towering figures of Chicago blues guitar, Otis Rush's recorded output has been both intermittent and inconsistent for various reasons. After his famed Cobra and Chess sides of the '50s and very early '60s, his career trudged along in first gear but it looked like he might break through in the '70s with a handful of solid albums. For whatever reason, this was not to be and Rush virtually disappeared from the scene again until the mid-'90s (except for live albums of varying quality surfacing from time to time). All Your Love I Miss Loving: Live at the Wise Fools Pub Chicago is a recently unearthed live set from early 1976, originally recorded for Chicago's WXRT Sunday Night Unconcert series, and immediately takes its place as one of Rush's best live offerings for several reasons. First off, this was his working band of the time. Bob Levis, Bob Stroger, and Jesse Green all came on board in 1975 for Rush's Delmark debut, Cold Day in Hell, and remained until at least the end of 1977 when Live in Europe and the unfortunately overdubbed and edited Lost in the Blues were recorded. Other live albums have been marred by fair to middling pickup bands. Not only is it his working band, it's the first live Otis Rush album recorded on his own turf; Wise Fools Pub was just about the only Chicago club Rush played at regularly during this time. Excellent sound seals the deal.

The sound is great and the band is clearly on its game, and this is a gritty live performance (which is decidedly not a drawback). There are some audible clams and a bit of feedback here and there, but Rush's passionate singing and playing always carry things to the next level. Fully half the songs are longer than five minutes, giving Rush plenty of solo time. His guitar and vocals are way up front (as they should be), and the band provides perfect support. Alberto Gianquinto's electric piano is pretty low in the mix but that's probably as it should be as well, and this is quite likely the way things sounded that night in the club. For the last third of the program, the band is joined by a couple sax players who don't really add much musically, but having other musicians sit in with the band is a longstanding Chicago blues tradition and simply adds to the authenticity of this recording. Many of these tunes are Rush staples and his classics "All Your Love (I Miss Loving)" and "Gambler's Blues" are here, but he also tackles Robert Nighthawk's "Sweet Little Angel" for the first time on record. These live tracks will never take the place of his Cobra material (which should be on the shelf of everyone who claims to like the blues), but as far as the live stuff goes, All Your Love I Miss Loving: Live at the Wise Fools Pub Chicago is probably the place to start.