CD review: Mose Allison – The Complete Atlantic / Elektra Albums 1962-1983 – 2021: Video, CD cover

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Over a career spanning more than 50 years, Mississippi-born pianist-singer-songwriter Mose Allison (1927-2016) was one of the most influential figures in jazz and modern blues. The self-described “Middle Class White Boy” inspired such artists as Pete Townshend, Jimi Hendrix, Georgie Fame, Elvis Costello, Ben Sidran, Van Morrison, and Al Kooper. He recorded more than 30 albums as a leader, and now roughly a third of his entire discography has been collected on a splendid new box set from Cherry Red’s Strawberry label.

The 6-CD box set The Complete Atlantic / Elektra Albums 1962-1983 brings together a dozen albums from Allison spanning 20+ years showcasing his lyrical wit as well as his musicianship. (All of the albums are presented in their original sequences only, with no bonus material appended.) Indeed, Allison began his recording career primarily as a pianist (and also occasionally as trumpeter), drawing attention early on for his blend of jazz and bop with country and blues sounds. But he would record a handful of vocals on those early albums, too. He seamlessly blended original songs with deftly reinvented interpretations of blues and pop standards, and frequently thought conceptually when it came to crafting an album.

Allison joined Atlantic in 1962 after tenures at Prestige and Columbia. 1962’s I Don’t Worry ‘Bout a Thing, produced by Nesuhi Ertegun, began his Atlantic years and opens this collection. The LP was a major breakthrough in his transition from a pianist who sings to a singer who plays piano; in addition to his original tunes, it featured compositions from Burton Lane, Irving Berlin, and Count Basie. This eclectic spirit would guide Allison as he continued making his mark at Atlantic. His sophomore set for the label, Swingin’ Machine, added trombone and tenor saxophone to the mix, but he was soon back in his familiar trio setting for 1964’s The Word from Mose. The album found him reinventing “Parchman Farm,” his 1957 adaptation of Bukka White’s 1940 “Parchman Farm Blues,” as “New Parchman.” Allison’s impact in the U.K. was becoming undeniable. “Parchman Farm” was surveyed by John Mayall and Georgie Fame. The Word from Mose‘s “I’m Not Talking” was covered by The Yardbirds, “Foolkiller” by The Brian Auger Trinity, and much later, “Look Here” by The Clash. Around 1964, The Who had begun including Allison’s “Young Man Blues” in their live setlists, too.

Wild Man on the Loose (1966) didn’t inspire the volume of covers as its predecessor, but remains a hidden gem in the Allison catalogue filled with his typically incisive, sardonic lyrical turns. Next up was a live album as Allison bristled at Atlantic’s request for more commercial material; he didn’t return with a new studio set until 1968’s I’ve Been Doin’ Some Thinkin’. Perhaps as a result of the pressure, he took on a more driving piano style and a somewhat darker worldview. Though the LP didn’t yield any hits, it did introduce “Everybody’s Cryin’ Mercy,” later recorded by Bonnie Raitt, Georgie Fame, Maria Muldaur, Elvis Costello, and other notable names.

Mose took another break from Atlantic before re-emerging in 1970 with producer Joel Dorn (Roberta Flack, Bette Midler) and an ensemble featuring brass and woodwinds for Hello There, Universe. The reintroduction wasn’t well-received at the time but today seems prescient as Mose delved more into the charged political landscape of the time with “Monsters of the Id.” He tipped his hat to the past, as always, with Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer’s “Blues in the Night” – already a blues classic via Big Joe Turner’s rendition. Dorn and Allison took things a step further with 1971’s Western Man, featuring the leader on electric piano supported by electric bassist Chuck Rainey and drummer Billy Cobham (Miles Davis, Mahavishnu Orchestra). This old-new fusion extended to the material which encompassed re-recordings in the new style, diverse covers, and originals alike.

A live album arrived next in 1972, but Mose retreated from the recording studio until 1976’s Your Mind Is on Vacation. Not that he’d been absent from performing; he’d toured with Bonnie Raitt and opened for Joan Armatrading. Your Mind was overseen by Nesuhi Ertegun and produced by Ilhan Mimaroglu, and featured just four new songs plus more reinterpretations from his back catalogue and the usual, well-chosen covers. Saxophonists David Sanborn, Joe Farrell, and Al Cohn as well as trumpeter Al Porcino goosed the LP with a burst of energy but it proved to be the pianist’s Atlantic farewell.

Allison sat out the rest of the decade and the dawn of the 1980s, but in 1982 he accepted an invitation from Elektra Records’ Bruce Lundvall to join the newly-established Elektra Musician jazz offshoot. The sixth and final disc of Strawberry’s collection has Mose’s two LPs for the label, both from 1982. Middle Class White Boy was recorded in the studio with producer Esmond Edwards who enlisted the returning Joe Farrell as well as guitarist Phil Upchurch. The latter’s electric guitar added yet another color to Allison’s well-established sound. He wrote four new songs for the occasion as well as continuing his penchant for revisiting past work and reinventing standards. Lessons in Living, the final album on the box, was recorded live at the Montreux Jazz Festival with such guests as Jack Bruce, Lou Donaldson, Eric Gale, and Billy Cobham. The audience clearly enjoyed Allison’s trip down Memory Lane with such classics as “Everybody’s Cryin’ Mercy,” “Your Mind Is on Vacation,” and “Wild Man on the Loose.”

Mose Allison went on to follow Bruce Lundvall to Blue Note. In 1996, he joined Van Morrison, Georgie Fame, and Ben Sidran to participate in their tribute to him, and in 2009 he released his final album on the hip ANTI- label. The Way of the World was his first album in 12 years and showed that his creative spark hadn’t dimmed at all.

Disk 1 von 6

01 I don’t worry about a thing
02 It didn’t turn out that way
03 Your mind is on vacation
04 Let me see
05 Everything i have is yours
06 Stand by
07 Idyll
08 The well
09 Meet me at no special place
10 The song is ended
11 Swingin’ machine
12 Do it
13 Stop this world
14 Promenade
15 If you’re goin’ to the city
16 Saritha
17 I ain’t got nothing but the blues
18 So rare

Disk 2 von 6

01 Foolkiller
02 One Of These Days
03 Look Here
04 Days Like This
05 Your Red Wagon
06 I’m The Wild Man
07 Rollin’ Stone
08 New Parchman
09 Don’t Forget To Smile
10 I’m Not Talking
11 Lost Mind
12 Wild Man On The Loose
13 No Trouble Livin’
14 Night Watch
15 What’s With You
16 Power House
17 You Can Count On Me To Do My Part
18 Never More
19 That’s The Stuff You Gotta Watch
20 War Horse

Disk 3 von 6

01 Smashed
02 Seventh Son
03 Fool’s Paradise
04 I Love The Life I Live
05 Since I Fell For You
06 Love For Sale
07 Baby Please Don’t Go
08 That’s Alright
09 Parchman Farm
10 Tell Me Somethin’
11 The Chaser
12 Jus Like Livin’
13 City Home
14 If You’re Goin’ To The City
15 Now You See It
16 You Are My Sunshine
17 Your Molecular Structure
18 Look What You Made Me Do
19 If You Really Loved Me
20 Everybody Cryin’ Mercy
21 Feel So Good
22 Let It Come Down
23 Back On The Corner

Disk 4 von 6

01 Somebody Gotta Move
02 Monsters Of The Id
03 I Don’t Want Much
04 Hello There, Universe
05 No Exit
06 Wild Man On The Loose
07 Blues In The Night
08 I’m Smashed
09 Hymn To Everything
10 On The Run
11 If You Only Knew
12 How Much Truth
13 Benediction
14 Night Club
15 Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me
16 Mountains
17 Western Man
18 Ask Me Nice
19 Tell Me Something
20 If You’ve Got The Money (I’ve Got The Time)
21 Meadows

[/b]Disk 5 von 6

01 Look What You Made Me Do
02 Fool’s Paradise
03 I Don’t Worry About A Thing
04 Powerhouse
05 Hey Good Lookin’
06 I Ain’t Got Nothin’ But The Blues
07 You Can Count On Me To Do My Part
08 You Are My Sunshine
09 Don’t Forget To Smile
10 The Seventh Son
11 Your Mind Is On Vacation
12 Foolin’ Myself
13 No Matter
14 One Of These Days
15 I Feel So Good
16 Fires Of Spring
17 If You Only Knew
18 I Can’t See For Lookin’
19 What Do You Do After You Ruin Your Life
20 Swingin’ Machine
21 Perfect Moment
22 Your Molecular Structure

[b]Disk 6 von 6

01 How Does It Feel? (To Be Good Looking)
02 Rollin’ Stone
03 I Don’t Want Much
04 Middle Class White Boy
05 When My Dreamboat Comes Home
06 I’m Nobody Today
07 I’m Just A Lucky So-And-So
08 Back Down South
09 The Tennessee Waltz
10 Hello There, Universe
11 Kiddin’ On The Square
12 Lost Mind
13 Wild Man On The Loose
14 Your Mind Is On Vacation
15 You Are My Sunshine
16 Seventh Son
17 Everybody Is Cryin’
18 Middle Class White Boy
19 I Don’t Worry About A Thing
20 Night Club

Mose Allison - Complete Atlantic / Elektra Albums 1962-1983 - Amazon.com  Music

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