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Three Generations Of The Blues

| December 30, 2005

The ’60s meet the new millennium with new releases by icons B.B. King, Otis Rush, and the Chicago Blues Reunion.

King’s newest release, 80 (Geffen), celebrates the master’s 80th birthday with musicians from the rock, blues, blues/rock, and pop worlds. Never one to be limited by blues stereotypes, King keeps it fresh on a series of superstar duets.

The concept of 80 is remarkable and revolutionary by blues standards, but for King, an urbane bluesman, it is business as usual. He rekindles classic tunes, like his own “The Thrill Is Gone” with Eric Clapton, “Tired Of Your Jive” with Billy Gibbons, and Leon Russell’s “Hummingbird” with John Mayer. He gets mellow with Gloria Estefan on the Doc Pomus/Dr. John penned “There Must Be A Better World Somewhere” and with #Bobby Bland# on Willie Nelson’s “Funny How Time Slips Away.” King brings out the best in Elton John, who reverts to his musical roots with “Rock This House,” an uptempo boogie by Jimmy Rogers. Other standout tracks include a very bluesy “Early In The Morning” with Van Morrison and “All Over Again” with Mark Knopfler. Roger Daltrey, Sheryl Crow, Glenn Frey, and Daryl Hall also make contributions.

King enjoyed success with two previous blues and rock collaborations, Blues Summit and Deuces Wild; maybe next time he’ll include Annie Lennox, Bonnie Bramlett, and Tina Turner in the mix?

All Your Love I Miss Loving — Live At The Wise Fools Pub, Chicago (Delmark) is a welcome CD by another blues master, Otis Rush. Recorded in 1976, All Your Love I Miss Loving is surprisingly Rush’s only live Chicago recording. The show was recorded and broadcast live as part of WXRT’s “Unconcert” series (it was sponsored by 7UP, the “Uncola”). Like Buddy Guy, Rush spent many years being shamefully under-recorded, going almost 17 years without making a studio album, from 1978 to 1994.

All Your Love I Miss Loving is vintage Rush, backed by a tight band and performing at one of his favorite nightclubs. Dave Ungerleider, who owned Wise Fools from 1972 to 1985, was a key figure in keeping the Northside blues scene alive during those times. Ungerleider was intensly pro-musician, commanding loyalty from the many artists who played the club and creating an appreciative work environment. Rush played Wise Fools almost exclusively during the ’70s.

Rush has recorded and performed many of the songs on All Your Loving frequently through the years, so there are no surprises song wise. No undiscovered gems, but gems nonetheless. He is at his galvanizing minor key best, with “Gambler’s Blues,” “Mean Old World,” and the title track. It’s not all scary though. He and the band swing mightily on Jimmy Smith’s “Motoring Along.”

Rush was an innovator right from the start, taking the mantle from King and adding a fearsome Westside intensity. Like King he pioneered a guitar style, which became the standard for generations of musicians to come. Currently sidelined by a stroke, he may not be able to play again, making All Your Love I Miss Loving an invaluable addition to your collection.

The six members that comprise the Chicago Blues Reunion, Barry Goldberg, Nick Gravenites, Harvey “The Snake” Mandel, Tracy Nelson, Sam Lay, and Corky Siegel were privileged to be part of Chicago scene in the early ’60s, one of the most exciting times in blues history. Unlike their British counterparts who initially learned the blues through records, they had access to the music firsthand in South and Westside clubs. While still teenagers, they met and played with Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Otis Spann, Elmore James, Junior Wells, and countless others.

In 1969 Chicago’s Chess issued Fathers And Sons, pairing veteran bluesmen Waters and Spann with stars Paul Butterfield and Michael Bloomfield. The Paul Butterfield Blues Band brought the blues — which ’til then had been restricted to neighborhood bars within the black community — to the Northside, and eventually to San Francisco, where blues acts shared the bill at the legendary Fillmore Auditorium with rock acts like Cream, Santana, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Johnny Winter, and others. Bloomfield brought King to the attention of Fillmore impresario Bill Graham. He and Gravenites made Mourning In The Morning, with Rush, and early on, he incorporated the guitarist’s style into his own. Had Bloomfield not died at the age of 38 he most likely would have recorded with King, too.

Buried Alive In The Blues (Out Of The Box) is masterful documentary on DVD featuring interviews with CBR band members, King, Guy, and interspersed with archival footage of Butterfield and Bloomfield, a brief glimpse of Hendrix, Waters, Wells, Bob Dylan, The Electric Flag, and others. The accompanying CD is a live concert recorded at FitzGerald’s featuring this great group of seasoned individuals laying down some authentic Chicago blues. And not a pompadour among them!

— Beverly Zeldin-Palmer

Category: Monthly, Sweet Home

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