Ben Sidran first came to public attention as a sideman on one of the early Steve Miller Band albums in the late Sixties. His keyboard stylings and flare suggested a background in jazz/rock fusion. His debut album, "Feel Your Groove" (also available on a Japanese Import CD) included a wealth of celebrated English and American talent including drummer Charlie Watts, but still did not deliver fully what Ben Sidran seemed to promise. This, his second album, was recorded after he resettled in Madison, Wisconsin (a.k.a. "Mad-City," then the Berkeley of the Midwest)and it showcased Ben Sidran's writing and performing in great form. It is quintessential Sidran, with stylings reminiscent but not imitative of his idol Mose Allison, and tunes that have held up extraordinarily well over the past three decades. This was Ben Sidran's true break-through LP, although best known to a relatively small group of FM alternative radio fanatics.
Luther Allison seemed to be on a roll when he died in 1998. He was back home after many years in Europe, and was winning awards and making a good living. This, his debut album, was cut in 1969 when he was 30 years old. He sang as if barely able to keep a lid on his emotion, and the elegance and precision of his guitar playing belied the fact that he had only been playing the instrument for a few years. If this debut can be faulted it's only in that it relies too heavily on overfamiliar standards like "Little Red Rooster," "Five Long Years," "Dust My Broom," "Sky Is Crying," and "Every Night About This Time." The CD reissue has been expanded with alternate takes and bonus cuts.
Soul Fixin' Man was blues guitarist/vocalist Luther Allison's first American recording in nearly 20 years. However, his domestic inactivity was not because Allison had stopped playing music. Far from it, since he was based in Paris and worked constantly on the European continent. A powerful player whose intensity on this set sometimes borders on rock (although remaining quite grounded in blues), Luther Allison (who contributed eight of the dozen songs) displays the large amount of musical growth he had experienced since the mid-'70s. Joined by his quintet, the Memphis Horns, and (on "Freedom") a choir, Allison is heard throughout in top form.
Brett Dean is not shy about revealing what his music is ‘about’. Whether inspired by certain individuals (as in Epitaphs), or by an ecological or human disaster (as in his String Quartet No. 1, on the now all too topical plight of refugees), Dean’s works are usually – perhaps invariably – driven by extra-musical narratives. Rather than tease out any innate structural puzzles or tensions, his music typically falls into short little dramatic narratives – no movement on this disc lasts as long as eight minutes, many of them rather less than five. The most obviously successful work here is Quartet No. 2, ‘And once I played Ophelia’, effectively a dramatic scena. Its soprano soloist is no mere extra voice (as in Schoenberg’s Second Quartet) but the leading protagonist. Allison Bell’s genuinely affecting performance is backed by the Doric Quartet’s expressionist scampering and sustained harmonies, the strings occasionally coming to the fore in the manner of a Schumann-style song postlude.
Allison was a major star in blues America when he was cut down by lung cancer and brain tumors in August 1997. But for a long time before celebrity caught up with him, the exciting guitarist was far better-known in Europe than in this United States. This French session dates from 1977, when the 38-year-old Chicago bluesman first earned standing ovations from European crowds and began contemplating his eventual move to Paris. Unlike his high-energy recordings in the '90s, Allison is in a relaxed mood throughout the program here, modulating his pointed expressions of heartbreak on blues standards (Little Walter's "Last Night" and Big Bill Broonzy's "Key to the Highway," to name two) and on originals (the title track and "It's Too Late"). Three tracks, all good, are added for CD reissue. On this memorable session, pianist-organist Sid Wingfield and a rhythm section capably back up the main man.
A follow-up to his previous Soul Fixin' Man (which uses the same personnel and may be from the same sessions), bluesman guitarist/singer Luther Allison is in top form throughout this well-rounded set. Allison wrote (or co-wrote with guitarist James Solberg) all but one of the dozen songs, and these range from heated blues struts to blues ballads. Recommended to fans of lowdown, intense Chicago blues.