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Luther ALLISON – Songs From The Road 2009 (Cd and AVI)

Posted in BLUES, Luther ALLISON, MOVIES on December 7, 2010 by whoisthemonk

Luther ALLISON – Songs From The Road 2009 (Cd and AVI)


“Songs From The Road” documented one of the magic moments of the blues-legend Luther Allison, who dies in 1997. Recorded in Montreal by the Canadian Television at 4th July 1997, only 4 days before he had to cancel his tour, and to come back on stage never again. In a set about nearly 90 minutes (which is documented on CD in nearly the whole length, and the TV-Edition about 56min. on DVD) Luther burns down a real blues-firework for his fans. As he has known, that this concert would be the last documented one.

A blues legend at his best and an essential collectible for his true friends

My last memory of Luther Allison was on the night of Friday, June 13, 1997. I had driven 1 1/2 hours to see him in New Hampshire and when we hugged goodbye and shook hands, his sweet cologne accompanied me on the car ride home. During that ride, I thought of the three times I’d seen him perform during that week and of how many times I would be part of Luther’s magic throughout the ensuing years.
A month later, July of 1997, Luther was diagnosed with the disease that, by August, 1997, would rob the world of a wonderful and gracious man.
Lucky for us, Luther’s performance at the Montreal Jazz Festival on July 4th, 1997, was both recorded and filmed by Montreal television. It was one of his last shows as six days later, on July 10th, Luther was handed that devastating news. Yet, he still took the stage that night for his final show in Madison, Wisconsin.
The 80 minutes of music includes 11 Luther standouts like “Cherry Red Wine”, his 1996 Song of the Year, “Serious”, “Will It Ever Change”, and “Move From The Hood”, his personal calls to social activism, and “It Hurts Me Too”, Luther’s usual slide guitar club walk song. Whether stinging slide, piercing single note runs, or blazing string attacks, Allison possessed the touch that married gospel and blues with rock and soul. Because The DVD show was edited down to 56 minutes to fit Montreal television, it showcases seven of Luther’s most energetic tunes from the CD. By the second song, “Livin’ In The House Of Blues”, Luther’s begun sweatin’. By the fourth song, “Cherry Red Wine”, you’ll need to get a towel to dry his face. By the time he voices “Move From the Hood”, Luther’s solos flow forth like molten lava. As you watch and listen, Luther jumps off the celluloid and captures you in his intimate trance.
A truly amazing performance from a man with only a month to live.
There are musicians who can allow each member of the audience the privilege to enter into the spontaneous, creative process. Luther discovered the rare ability that empowered any spectators willing to join his musical spirit. His intimately passionate performances were as physically, emotionally, and spiritually draining for audience members as for the sweat drenched Allison. He could permit every patron to become one with the messages of his soul, which moved effortlessly between reception of stimuli and conversion into pure, raw, emotional music. For that reason, every Luther performance has been the most draining experience I’ve ever endured.
His life partner, Rocky Brown, once told me, I still get the chills every time he starts singing”.
Famous for his marathon, 4 hour non-stop shows, Luther said is best. “As draining as my shows are, if the audience is doin’ their job, I’m not so tired at the end of a night’s performance. I’m very spontaneous on stage. Right now if I got the chance to play for three hours, I’ll still do it. But I don’t want people to program it. To me, if it happens, it’s a bonus man! I tell the people, you’ve paid for the first 90 minutes. Anything after that, consider that I’m paying for it.”
Luther taught each of us many lessons; perseverance, acceptance, redemption, triumph, unrequited friendship, and generous, overwhelming love. His most enduring lesson, however, may be the message to live our lives in the precious present. To hold his precious present, Luther assaulted endings. Every night he battled the performer’s enemy, curfews and closing times. He extended encores for hours as one song became five became ten. He fought to keep club lights on until every fan had been personally touched. It was these exquisite moments Luther never ignored. His final message to us all was “Leave your ego, play the music, love the people.” We need to remember how warm his heart was to all. We need to remember he saw only people, no color difference. We need to live our lives and conduct our affairs remembering his final words.
Thomas Ruf, Luther’s dear friend and owner of Ruf Records, sums up the loss best, “The Blues lost a true hero. Luther had the unique ability to pull new fans in to the blues.”
Whenever I left a Luther show, I wished I could see the experience over and over again. Songs From The Road is the ultimate celebration of Luther Allison’s powerful message to the world.

Art Tipaldi – Contributing Editor of Blues Revue and BluesWax and the author of the book Children Of The Blues, Profiles of 49 Blues Musicians, including Luther and Bernard Allison.
One of the biggest mysteries about the American music industry is why it took British musicians to popularize American music in North America. Led Zepplin, The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, and The Animals all had success on the American pop charts not only by singing the blues, but by playing old blues music. The even larger irony is the large number of American blues musicians, predominantly African American, who have had to go to Europe in order for their music to be fully appreciated. In some cases that has meant successful tours, while for others it has meant signing with European record companies.

At one point in time the issue of race was a factor as mainstream American radio stations refused to play the blues as performed by African American musicians. Elvis’s version of “Hound Dog” might have been popular, but there wasn’t much chance of ever hearing Big Momma Thornton singing it on the radio. There is definitely something wrong with a system that would rather broadcast Pat Boone covering Little Richard than playing the genuine article. Sad as that situation was in the late 1950s and early 1960s, it must have been even more disheartening for musicians to hear young guys from England coming over and having hits with songs they had written — and never got credit for writing, let alone ever receiving a cent in royalties.

Thankfully for American blues musicians, black and white, European audiences had a taste for the real thing. Not only did many of them, and many still do today, have successful careers over there, but quite a number of the European blues labels began distributing recordings in North America, and putting energy into developing audiences for the blues back in the land where it originated. One of the most successful of those has been the German label Ruf Records, formed by Thomas Ruf in 1994. He had left school in the 1980s when he became Luther Allison’s promoter, and the label grew out of that relationship, with Allison’s 1994 recording Bad Love (released in the US by Alligator as Soul Fixin’ Man) being their first title.

Sadly, Allison died only three years later from lung cancer just as he was re-establishing himself in North America. In fact he was diagnosed while on tour and gave the last performance of his career on July 10, 1997 in Madison Wisconsin, the day he had was given the bad news, and died that August. According to anyone who saw him perform, it was his live shows that made Allison special, and now thanks to Ruf Records and Canadian television, we have one more opportunity to see and hear him performing in front of an audience. On that last tour of North America, his performance on July 4th at the Montreal Jazz Festival was recorded by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). While the original concert was 90 minutes long, the video was edited down to 50 to fit into an hour time slot. However the complete audio track survives, allowing fans at least the opportunity to hear the entire performance on the new two-disc CD/DVD set,

The first thing you notice about the DVD segment of Songs From The Road is its high quality. It’s been re-mastered for surround sound and the picture quality is excellent. The CBC had been recording live performances of music for decades by then, and that shows in the quality of the presentation. From the number of cameras used to the seamless editing job, they did everything possible to bring the performance to life for the audience at home. From tight shots of fingers on fret boards during leads, close-ups of Allison’s face as he’s wringing every last drop of emotion from a lyric, to shooting through the band allowing us to see the audience on their feet and dancing, the DVD brings you as complete a concert experience as is possible on camera.

Of course, there’s Luther himself. Now, while I’ve heard any number of his recordings dating back to his earlier years on through his career, I never had the opportunity to see him perform. Unlike some performers who run all over the stage or contort themselves while playing their leads yet still don’t feel like they are giving off the energy to rival a firefly, Luther Allison standing still centre stage feels like he could power a small city. There was one moment when he let loose a lyric, halfway between a primal growl and singing, sounding like the words were being torn out of his soul, that sent shivers running up and down my spine. At that instant he became a small sun around which everything else revolved, dependent on him for the energy required for life to exist.

I knew a theatre director once who referred to rock and roll stars as the shamans of the modern world as they had the power to control tens of thousands of people during their concerts. To be honest with you I had never really bought into that line because to my mind the power we awarded those people never felt like it was as a result of their actions, but more because of their status as celebrities. However, when Allison sang that note, even though I was separated from that moment by 12 years and technology, there could be no denying the pull he exerted on me by whatever it was he was generating. You could almost hear the collective drawing in and holding of breath by the on-screen audience as they too were captured, and then the explosion of its release in the form of cheers and applause.

Electric blues music has been around for decades, and quite frankly a lot of it has become cliched and boring. Somehow the music whose power and mystery so frightened radio programmers 30 years ago that they refused to play it has been turned into something bland. The passion has been sucked out of it by performers who put themselves centre stage ahead of the music. Instead of being conduits for its power, they suck it dry to make themselves look impressive. Watching Luther Allison on Songs From The Road, giving the next to last performance of his life, is to understand what the blues are and to be reminded what makes them so special.

He didn’t know it was one of the last times he would ever perform, but he played and sang like it was, because that’s what he always did. For those of you, like me, who never had a chance to see Allison perform, the CD/DVD two-disc set Songs From The Road is a treasure you don’t want to miss out on. One warning: after watching and listening to these two discs, you might start experiencing a great deal of dissatisfaction with what passes for blues these days.
By Richard Marcus.
Luther Alllison- VocAL, Guitar
James Solberg- Guitar
ken Faltinson- Bass
Mike Vlahakis- Keys
Rob Stupka- Drums
01. Cancel My Check 6:41
02. Living In The House Of The Blues 6:38
03. What Have I Done Wrong 8:04
04. Will It Ever Change? 7:04
05. You Can, You Can 4:30
06. There Comes A Time 11:01
07. (Watching You) Cherry Red Wine 11:54
08. Low Down And Dirty 4:49
09. It Hurts Me Too 7:52
10. Serious 3:18

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