Live In Chicago

Luther Allison

Alligator Records, 1999

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


As much as I love the blues, it seems strange that I didn't discover the music of Luther Allison until his untimely death from cancer. Live In Chicago, a posthumous release that serves as a celebration of the legendary guitarist/singer's life, actually makes me feel worse that I didn't discover the joys of his talents while he was still with us.

The title of this disc is slightly a misnomer; four tracks were recorded in Lincoln, Nebraska, in one of Allison's final shows before his death. However, if he was sick, he didn't let cancer muffle his sound or his enthusiasm for the music, and their inclusion in this set is both appropriate and fitting.

The first disc of this over two-hour set captures the intensity of Allison's performance at the 1995 Chicago Blues Festival. Having just flown to Chicago from Paris the day of the show, one would have understood if Allison sounded a bit tired or rusty. This, however, is far from the case, as I can almost feel the joyous sweat from Allison's all-too-brief set. Allison's guitar work encompasses not only the blues, but the early days of rock and roll; some of his solos could easily have come from the rock world, they have such intensity and bite.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Tracks like "Soul Fixin' Man," "Move From The Hood" and his take on "It Hurts Me Too" show that Allison was ready to lay claim to the blues throne in the United States, having spent the better part of two decades in Europe. The talent was there; it's just that the time wasn't. Had Allison lived, there is no doubt that this disc would have served as the coronation music.

Allison welcomes two old friends - Otis Rush and Eddie C. Campbell - on the first disc's closer "Gambler's Blues / Sweet Little Angel". The guitar work of all three men blends into one glorious noise, and serves as proof that the blues is truly a joyous music that helps to put a smile on your face and a dance step in your feet.

Disc two features Allison in more intimate quarters - the Zoo Bar in Lincoln and Buddy Guy's Legends in Chicago (not long after his performance at the Chicago Blues Fest). Sometimes, it takes a little effort to plow through tracks like "All The King's Horses," but Allison's guitar work makes it a little easier.

Tracks like "You're Gonna Make Me Cry," "Walking Papers" and "What's Going On In My Home?" capture Allison holding court in the more lively atmosphere of the clubs, and he seems to absorb every ounce of energy these places pack into their walls. In a sadly ironic twist, the set closes with "Everything's Gonna Be All Right," almost a message Allison sends to his fans to let them know that they don't need to worry about him. Ka-pow.

Live In Chicago is the kind of disc that serves as a wonderful tribute to Allison, but it does more than that. It makes sure that the voice of the legendary bluesman, though silenced in death, sings on for generations to come. If history is indeed fair, our children's children will still turn to recordings like Live In Chicago and ask us, "Why don't they make music like that anymore?"

Rating: A-

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One of the best live albums that I have ever heard. Love the guitar solos and his voice is at it's best. Love his music but nothing beats live.

© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Alligator Records, and is used for informational purposes only.