Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Otis Rush Riveting Live Blues

Otis Rush is one of the legends of modern Chicago blues. The following review of a then previously unissued live performance by Rush from 1976 that Delmark issued 30 years later. The review originally appeared (I have made some edits) in the February 2006 issue of Jazz & Blues Report (issue 279) and was part of a longer review of Delmark reissues. This performance is a year or two prior to when I first had the opportunity to see him live at the Village Gate and wills ay that I have never seen anybody put on a more powerful live performance than Otis at his best. Rush who suffered a stroke several years ago will likely never perform again which is the music world’s loss, so recordings such as this which showcase him at the height of his powers should be treasured. This should be relatively easy to find from blues retailers.

News of a previously unissued live recording of Otis Rush from the mid-seventies created much excitement among blues enthusiasts. Rush, a Mississippi native, moved to Chicago and became part of the West Side Chicago blues scene playing some blistering guitar and singing with great fervor. One of many blues artists in the post-B.B. King style, Rush’s first recording for the Cobra label, I Cant Quit You Baby, charted on the R&B charts, and was followed by early recordings including All Your Love (I Miss Loving), My Love Will Never Die, and Three Times a Fool. After the Cobra label folded, he briefly was on Chess and then Don Robey signed him but only issued one single, Homework.

Many of Rush’s recordings have become part of the modern blues repertoire and covered by such blues-rock acts as John Mayall, Led Zeppelin and J. Geils. Rush was one of the artists featured on the legendary Chicago, The Blues Today series and has had a number of albums issued over the past three decades. Delmark issued Cold Day in Hell in the mid-1970s and it had received a fair amount of airplay on rock station WXRT which led to WXRT recording and broadcasting Rush in performance from Chicago’s Wise Fools Pub in January 1976.

Now about three decades later, this performance is available for all blues lovers on a new Delmark CD, All Your Love I Miss Loving. Featuring his superb band of the time with Bob Levis on second guitar, Bob Stroger on bass, Jesse Green on drums and Alberto Gianquinto (ex-James Cotton, ex-Santana) on piano, Rush is in superb form opening with B.B. King’s Please Love Me and redoing his All Your Love and It Takes Time as well other songs from King, T-Bone Walker and Chuck Willis. To hear Rush, one of the most intense guitarists in the blues, laying out his soul singing You’re Breaking My Heart, or rearranging T-Bone Walkers Mean Old World to the melody of I Cant Quit You Baby, one is treated to a performance that will reaffirm for many of us why we love the blues, to paraphrase Steve Tomashefsky’s liner notes.

Few blues artists put as much soul into their performances and reach the level that Rush at his best achieved, and he was at his best that January 1976 night at the Wise Fools Pub.

My review copy was provided by Delmark Records.

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