Luther Allison - Underground
Ruf Records GmbH.
By James “Skyy Dobro” Walker
Here is a September released CD that gives you double the fun: great music from the late legend and controversy about historical accuracy. Almost immediately blues scholars disputed the “1958” recording date and a CD sticker claiming “never previously issued.”
The original liner notes begin, “The discovery and release of Luther Allison's 1958 debut recording represents an [exciting] blues find.... After sitting for 50 years in the home of Luther's wife, Fannie Allison, Luther's son Bernard unearthed these monumental recordings...,” Art Tipaldi, author.
The 1958 date evidently came from the memory of 74 year old Bobby Rush, who produced the album. But, as we all know, memory can be a tricky thing. Bobby Rush likely remembered the date wrong, and Ruf took his word.
By November 2, a blogger wrote: “A sticker on the CD ...states that these are 1958 recordings and never previously issued. This is not true. ...I know because I bought a vinyl LP from Luther in 1971 called Underground with the eight tracks that have been reissued. It was sold by Luther as if it was a bootleg (I suspect he was still under contract to Delmark). The simple album label stated it was produced by Bobby Rush. .... I suggest this was recorded between 1968 and 1970, after Luther's Delmark [debut] album was issued. It might have been intended primarily as a demo to be shopped to a bigger label, which Luther also sold at gigs.” Ron Weinstock at http://inabluemood.blogspot.com/2007/11/rufs-incredible-promotion-of-luther.html
By now, Ruf Records themselves have placed an update on their website conceding the more likely date: “...the session organised by bandleader/bassplayer Bobby Rush must have taken place before the company [Wonderful Studio] folded in 1968.”
What we know for sure is that these are early recordings of a multiple award winning blues guitar player whose four hour, non-stop shows were legendary and who died at the peak of his career in 1997 of lung cancer. An accomplished guitarist, Allison had learned the blues long before he got to Chicago. He took Chicago Blues and added touches of rock, soul, reggae, funk, and jazz.
The eight songs are all covers. In the liner notes, Bobby Rush explains, “It wasn't any particular songs. We're just going in there to do what we would do on the bandstand at night. Cutting the kinds of things that we were playing for audiences every night.... We cut the thing in one take because we didn't have the money to do things better. Some of it was unfinished; some of it was OK and some wasn't.”
Elvin Bishop once claimed that any 1960s band worth their salt had to play “Hide Away,” and Luther kicks off the set with a hot version of this instrumental classic.
If you are new to Luther Allison, what better place to start? Long time fans clearly need this CD in their Luther library.
CLICK HERE for more information or to purchase.