In many cases, collections of musical odds and ends - a live rarity here, an alternate take there - can be uneven and inconsistent. And the people they're aimed at - mainly diehard fans and serious collectors - are willing to live with that. They have more than just a casual interest in the artist's work, and even the less-from-essential stuff excites and intrigues them. Assembled in 2002 - five years after Luther Allison's death - Pay It Forward is the sort of odds-and-ends collection that tends to appeal to diehard fans rather than casual listeners. This CD, which spans 1985-1996, contains an abundance of previously unreleased material and ranges from various live performances to an alternate version of the dark, brooding "Cherry Red Wine."
Luther's third album for Alligator finds the 50-something bluesman truly at the peak of his powers. His superb guitar playing has never been more focused, and his singing shows a fervent shouter in full command. But Allison's songwriting has made giant strides as well, and ten of the 14 tracks aboard feature him as a co-writer as well. The production by Jim Gaines delivers a modern-sounding album that stays firmly in the blues tradition while giving full vent to Luther's penchant for blending soul, rock and funk grooves into his musical stew.
The second of three Allison albums issued on Motown's Gordy subsidiary in the 1970s, Luther's Blues captures the guitarist's uncovered-wire sound in its full glory. The crescendo ending of "Let's Have a Little Talk," one of five Allison originals here, is more than another standard variation on crowd-pleasing clichés. It's an apocalyptic, blues-wailing roar, with Allison's pleading vocal at its core. Berry Gordy turns up in the composer credits for one tune, "Someday Pretty Baby," which, along with "Part Time Love," trawls the company's early raw-edged back catalog. Even the funk-flavored "K.T."–an attempted hit single?–fits the mood. The three bonus tracks on this exemplary remaster nearly double the original LP's length, with a raw version of Freddy King's "San-Ho-Zay" glowing alongside an alternate version of Allison's "Bloomington Closing" and a lengthy medley from the 1973 Ann Arbor Blues Festival.
In 1999, Collectables released I Don't Worry About a Thing/Mose Alive!, which contained two complete albums – I Don't Worry About a Thing (1962, originally released on Atlantic) and Mose Alive! (1965, originally released on Atlantic) – by Mose Allison on one compact disc.
Through a career spanning a half-century, Mose Allison has been known mostly for his bluesy hipster vocals and comical compositions like "Your Mind is on Vacation, But Your Mouth is Working Overtime. But he's also a fine bebop-flavored pianist who even spent time back in the '50s in the rhythm sections of such jazz titans as Stan Getz, Al Cohn and Zoot Sims.
Bernard Allison got some valuable advice from his father, Luther, before the latter's death in 1997: "Don't be afraid to go outside of the blues," he said. "Don't let them label you like they did me." Bernard has obviously taken that advice to heart; his solo albums have been a rich mixture of rock, funk, blues, and R&B. Most of his recordings have been released in Europe, where he has made his home for a decade. The release of Higher Power comes a little while after his return to the States, and reflects a lifetime of both good times and bad. The album's most noticeable lyrical element is the recurring theme of recovery from addiction – "I've Learned My Lesson" (from which the album's explicitly AA-derived title is taken) and "New Life I'm In" are two of the most explicit blues-based odes to a 12-step program since Stevie Ray Vaughan's "Wall of Denial." On the funkier, less pious side are the soulful "Raggedy and Dirty" (charmingly, he pronounces that word "raggly") and the funky, vaguely misogynistic "Woman Named Trouble".