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April 06, 1995 - Image 18

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The Michigan Daily, 1995-04-06

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6 - The Michigan Daily - Weekend etc. - Thursday, April 6, 1995

Mose Allison didn't revolutionize jazz or blues, but still he's good

By Dirk Shuize
Daily Arts Writer
Mose Allison never intended to
change the face of jazz. And he didn't.
What he did do in his prime, though,
was create a series of quite memo-
rable albums featuring his distinctive
and always swinging piano and vocal
stylings. Columbia/Legacy has reis-
sued three of these records in a three
CD box entitled "The Mose Allison
Trilogy." Included in the box is 1960's.
"Transfiguration of Hiram Brown,"
1961's "I Love the Life I Live" and
"V-8 Ford Blues."
"Transfiguration" was Allison's
debut on Columbia records, the title
suite of which, according to Mose,
tells the story of Hiram Brown, a man
who has spent all of his life in the
country, dreaming of a life in the fast
lane of the city. He goes to the city
and, in far over his head, becomes
despaired and disillusioned. Longing
for his youth, he crashes hard and is,
somehow, "transfigured." "Barefoot
-- Dirt Road" opens the suite, estab-
lishing the rural mood before giving
way later to "Gotham Day" and
"Gotham Night." Presumably, it is in
"The River" that Brown experiences
his transfiguration; it is a little hard to
tell. Regardless, the material accom-
plishes Allison's primary goal: it
swings. It also may be Mose's best
instrumental performance, backed as
he is by the very capable Addison
Fanner on bass and Jerry Segal on
Side two of "Transfiguration" re-
places the conceptual suite with a
series of standards, all treated to the
unique piano and vocals of Mose.
"Baby, Please Don't Go" may not
sound too bluesy in his hands but the
man never claimed to be a bluesman.
He may have loved the blues, particu-
larly that of the Mississippi delta, but
he wanted nothing more than to swing
and swing he does, through that tune
and his other vocal number,'"'Deed I
Do." The CD adds an alternate ver-
sion of "Barefoot - City Road" as an
extra incentive.
{ Though he tends to dismiss many
of his vocal performances, Allison
shows on 1961's "I Love the Life I
Live" how much he truly enjoys sing-
ing. It is plain in his phrasing on
Willie Dixon's title track, given that
casual swinging edge Mose practiced
and "I Ain't Got Nobody." The record
is composed of three blues numbers,

four standards and four of Mose's
own tunes. Regardless of the original
sound of the songs, though, in
Allison's hands they are transformed,
not necessarily for the better but just
for the different. His piano lines on
this record are particularly loose and
playful, perfectly suited to his vocals
and the excellent backup he receives
once again, this time not only from
Segal and Farmer but Paul Motian,
Henry Grimes, Gus Johnson and Bill
Allison's own compositions on "I
Love the Life I Live" do not shine as
brightly as they did on "Transfigura-
tion" but he does come up with some
decent grooves, especially on "Night
Train" and "News." Nothing as dis-
tinct as "Gotham Night" on "Trans-
figuration" but nothing bad, either.
Two bonus tracks are added to this
issue (which has never before been
available on CD), including a rendi-
tion of Irving Berlin's "The Pretty
Girl is Like a Melody."
On "V-8 Ford Blues," Allison re-
turns most strongly to the blues, ren-
dering five of his favorite songs by
the best bluesmen with his character-
istic soft personality. Different ver-
sions of many of these tunes appeared
on previous albums but here they ap-
pear in a new, more personal light as
producer Teo Macero leaves the vo-
cal mic on during the instrumental
passages, picking up a moan during
"Baby, Please Don't Go" and coax-
ing out of Allison some of his finest
singing, particularly on Lightnin'
Hopkins' "Mad With You" and Percy
Mayfield's "Life is Suicide."
In a time when not many jazz
players were looking to the Delta for
inspiration, Allison looked not only
there but to country music as well,
turning in fine renditions of "Hey,
Good Lookin"' and "Please Don't
Talk About Me When I'm Gone."
Whether it is a standard or a recent
blues number, Mose still refuses to
take any cover straight on "V-8 Ford
Blues." Sonny Boy Williamson cer-
tainly never sang the title track in the
charming, swinging manner that
Allison does. "I don't do the tunes the
way they were originally done," he
said. "I always intend to swing." Sure,
he'll never be regarded as a classic
blues belter but as is evident, he never
wanted to be. The man swings, pure
and simple.
Though his vocals are always

good, it is his piano playing that is
ultimately most interesting, a con-
tinually evolving sound that is direct
even as it dances around the main
themes of a piece, embellishing the
basic changes with his own ideas. His

own compositions, particularly on "V-
8 Ford Blues" and "Transfiguration
of Hiram Brown" are as strong as his
playing, allowing him room to open
up and move around a bit more. "Ask
Me Nice" on "V-8 Ford Blues" should

be a standard by now.
The only real drawback to "The
Mose Allison Trilogy" is the lack of
any unifying liner notes. All of the
releases feature the original notes and
a short paragraph by Allison describ-

ing the record and that's all. An ac-
companying booklet would have been
nice, but that is merely nitpicking: the
set is a well-chosen representation of
Allison's work, embellished with the
occasional bonus track.


Sonny Boy Williamson is covered by, but doesn't sound particularly like, Mose Allison.

Continued from page 4
type songs that lack decent lyrics,
hooks, originality, style or substance"?
That's better. It sounds like all of
those crappy ballads their former
bands used to release, unplugged and
excruciating dull.

So if they aren't the youth gone
wild, who is? Skid Row's "Subhu-
man Race" is their heaviest album
ever and actually would sound pretty
good blasting out of a car stereo.
Sebastian's voice can be a little grat-
ing but the music is surprisingly com-
petent and heavy. Look, it's no White
Zombie or Foetus or Monster Magnet
or Quicksand, but it entertained me.

I can't speak on Cinderella's new
"Still Climbing," but my friend and
fellow Daily staffer Brian said if you
liked their sound before you'd like
this one. And the one song I heard on
Tesla's "Bust A Nut" sounded ...
Tesla-like. If you're into those bands
they're worth checking out. Slash's
Snakepit is supposedly OK if you
ignore the vocals, and Van Halen,

well they suck but if you like the
Hagar era you might enjoy "Balance;"
Nothing groundbreaking, but noth-
ing too embarrassing either. Now, if
only Bang Tango and Enuff Z'Nuff
had deals outside of Europe we might
be starting a new trend. Hey, if disco
and New Wave can make a comeback
then I can think of worse things than
listening to Motley Crue.
-40 000

*min. age 19 required*
and the
Ann Arbor
Climbing Gym
Black Diamond/Scarpa
Climbing Shoe
Demo Day
Try some of this year's hottest shoes on the walls
of the climbing gym.
When: April 6th 1995

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Monday, March 20, ±995I On Monday, May 1,
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with an Imprinted local address,
We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. Thank you for your cooperation.

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