TBT- Luther Allison’s Scorching “Bad News Is Coming”
Editor’s Note: This week we look back at a beautiful blues experience brought to us by the talented, passionate Luther Allison.
Referred to as “The Bruce Springfield of the blues” by the the Chicago Sun-Times, Luther Allison left an indelible mark upon Chicago blues. He could swing, he could funk, and he could jazz it up, always sprinkling his beloved blues perfectly placed in the mix. His work is all the more remarkable when one discovers that Allison was self taught. Over the course of his career he would earn numerous awards including several W.C. Handy Awards, and Living Blues Awards as well. In 1998, his work earned him a posthumous induction into the Blues Hall of Fame.
As anyone having had the privilege of seeing Allison play live will attest, fans never left disappointed. On the contrary, they always wanted more, even though would play for two, even three hours. Fans loved him, and he loved them back. He had said, “Leave your ego, play the music, love the people.”
Allison had signed with Berry Gordy’s Motown Records in 1972. His first effort on for the label was Bad News Is Coming, recorded between February 29 and August 4, 1972 was issued in December of that year. Personnel are Luther Allison – lead guitar & vocals, Paul White – piano, Ray Goodman – rhythm guitar, Andrew Smith – bass & drums, and Garfield Anyove on harmonica.
Right out of the gate Allison hits us with an earth shattering rendition of “Little Red Rooster” that stops us in our tracks. This is a juicy cut indeed, what with it’s Hendrix like intro, and leads throughout that recall Jeff Beck’s playing during this same period, yet they are uniquely Allison. After we put down the fire extinguisher, saving our photograph from certain destruction, we move on to the next track, another Willie Dixon classic, “Evil Is Going On.” Allison’s vocal here is penetrating, as if any second, he will burst forth from the record player into the room.
On his own composition, “Ragged and Dirty,” the band brings the funk, and it is driving, hard edged, but contained. Again, the vocal here is immediate, and the guitar lines are pointed, but not overdone, and the organ adds a layer of texture that is just so. “Rock Me Baby” is cut from the same mold, and is equally intense.
Other standout tracks include Allison’s own “Bad News Is Coming,” zealously prosecuted and simply brilliant. Most blues devotees are familiar with Buddy Guy’s version of the Mel London classic “Cut You A-Loose,” titled “Cut You Loose.” Allison’s version is a more straight ahead version, without the Wah-Wah that Guy’s version is known for, but equally powerful and moving. His take on the Robert Johnson masterpiece “Dust My Broom” is rousing and spunky.
A 2001 reissue on CD includes four tracks from these sessions that will blow listeners’ hair back including a kicking take on Freddie King’s “The Stumble.”
Any serious blues collector’s cache would be wanting without this amazing album. It’s a great way to take a break from the daily grind and get lost in some killer blues.