Live In Paris
Ruf Records, 1979
REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 10/12/2000
If you want to get a good introduction to the Chicago blues sound, Luther Allison is a great introduction. With a listen to his scorching guitar solos and his raw voice, Allison captured the essence of Chicago blues: that it is not necessarily a sound, but a feeling. Being fortunate enough to live in the city that has the legendary blues bar, the Zoo Bar, I had a good introduction to an artist who never let a genre peg his style down.
His Live In Chicago double disc is almost too much to take in. Allison played the Chicago circuit in the middle and late 1970s before he relocated overseas. And by listening to Live In Paris, you get a feeling that Allison was ready for a change. Unlike far too many live albums, Live In Paris has the crowd responding politely. In fact, you never hear a crowd roar. It may be because the recording wanted to focus entirely on Allison or it could be that the audience was listening to a sound that they typically don't hear.
The songs on Live In Paris have a simplicity that can raise the hairs on your arms. "Crazy Jealous," "My Babe" and "I'm Leavin'" showcase Allison's straightforward style of blues playing. Allison's banter with the crowd is ripe with "thank yous" and "you've been such a wonderful audience." But coming from his voice and listening to his electric playing, you believe it.
Many fans and critics are drawn to Allison's no-frills approach to music. No glitzy marketing, no computerized samples or beats, just straightforward playing. However, those appreciate Allison for just that are missing the point of his style. Yes, his musical approach was free of some of the many unnecessary elements associated with making albums. However, Allison's music is anything but simple.
His guitar playing is an amazing hybrid of blues, rock and …something else. It seems that in listening to songs like "Thrill Is Gone," "Early In The Morning" and "I Can't Quit You Babe," Allison is playing notes that NEED to be played to convey his emotions and not necessarily because they fit a traditional rock and blues method. That is the mark of a gifted guitarist.
Some artists actually do better playing to a non-initiated audience than to the converted. With the magic captured in Live In Paris, I have to put Allison in that place. Not that his blues shows in Chicago or hell, even Lincoln, Nebraska were not amazing, but Allison was always a musician who enjoyed a challenge. Sadly, that legacy ended in 1997 shortly after he was diagnosed with cancer. Luckily for fans of Allison and fans-to-be, his live albums almost capture the essence of what it was like to be those smoky, packed, beer and rum soaked clubs that he performed in.