Blues giant Luther Allison passed on in August 1997, cut down much too early, and this issuance is something of a memorial, as liner writer Art Tipaldi hints. Allison had a lot of heart, famed for his marathon concerts,—up to 2-1/2 hours beyond the 90 minutes norm, as he loved to break the rules if the audience was truly into it and warranted the gift. Business is one thing, art another, and Luther Allison was an artist. Thus, the dual format nature of this release, CD / DVD, is fortunate, as I'm informing you that you have to watch the DVD first in order to really get the honest dynamism of the guy.
Allison doesn't just walk on stage, he comes out from behind the curtain already playing atop a grooving band setting him to the task with a smile on his face. There are no false tormented guitar god theatrics at any point; every grimace is real as the gent reaches for burning solos and chord flurries. His intent goes straight to the strings and an anticipation of what comes next while simultaneously absorbing the fire and bump of the backing band. He's into it the same way Jimi was, 100% consumed by the music (and there are none of Jimi's notorious theatrics here)—rapt, grinning, glowering, groovin' 'n smokin'.
Then there's that big voice, a shouter with a strong melodic sense, a lot like B. B. King but with more swing. Keyboardist Mike Vlahakis counterpoints and enriches it magnificently via a swirling organ sound, smoky and darkly glowing. Rhythm guitarist and co-writer James Solberg buttresses Luther's playing, fining out the brash and searing sound, more than once also stepping up for some great soloing. The band, in other words, is an organic outgrowth of the center player, becoming his third hand. Thus, the entire concert—the 80-minute CD and the 60-minute DVD—is one big blues rave-up of a communal nature: from Allison's real life concerns, well shown in his classic Cherry Red Wine, and then out into the audience, which he wants fully immersed…and they are. And so will you be. Watch the DVD first.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2010, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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