The very thing that made Luther Allison noteworthy became an albatross around his neck. Years after his initial run of records in the '70s, he was known for the same thing he was at the time – he was the only blues artist on Gordy, or any Motown affiliated label. This was true and novel, but many focused on the novelty, not the truth, ignoring Allison's status as a terrific torchbearer of raw Chicago blues. Some of material illustrates some contemporary influence – dig that funky groove and organ on "Raggedy and Dirty," or the rock-oriented slow burn of Mel London's "Cut You A-Loose" – but as his original title track illustrates, he can also deliver a torturous, impassioned slow grind. Still, this isn't an album about originality, it's a record how tradition can remain alive in a contemporary setting. Apart from the slightly cleaner production and the extended running time, this could have been released 15 years earlier, since its heart is in classic Chicago blues, particularly Chess. He draws on Willie Dixon via Howlin' Wolf for the first two tracks, dipping into Elmore James and B.B. King's catalogs later on in the record.
Luther Allison seemed to be on a roll when he died in 1998. He was back home after many years in Europe, and was winning awards and making a good living. This, his debut album, was cut in 1969 when he was 30 years old. He sang as if barely able to keep a lid on his emotion, and the elegance and precision of his guitar playing belied the fact that he had only been playing the instrument for a few years. If this debut can be faulted it's only in that it relies too heavily on overfamiliar standards like "Little Red Rooster," "Five Long Years," "Dust My Broom," "Sky Is Crying," and "Every Night About This Time." The CD reissue has been expanded with alternate takes and bonus cuts.
A follow-up to his previous Soul Fixin' Man (which uses the same personnel and may be from the same sessions), bluesman guitarist/singer Luther Allison is in top form throughout this well-rounded set. Allison wrote (or co-wrote with guitarist James Solberg) all but one of the dozen songs, and these range from heated blues struts to blues ballads. Recommended to fans of lowdown, intense Chicago blues.
Soul Fixin' Man was blues guitarist/vocalist Luther Allison's first American recording in nearly 20 years. However, his domestic inactivity was not because Allison had stopped playing music. Far from it, since he was based in Paris and worked constantly on the European continent. A powerful player whose intensity on this set sometimes borders on rock (although remaining quite grounded in blues), Luther Allison (who contributed eight of the dozen songs) displays the large amount of musical growth he had experienced since the mid-'70s. Joined by his quintet, the Memphis Horns, and (on "Freedom") a choir, Allison is heard throughout in top form.
Allison was a major star in blues America when he was cut down by lung cancer and brain tumors in August 1997. But for a long time before celebrity caught up with him, the exciting guitarist was far better-known in Europe than in this United States. This French session dates from 1977, when the 38-year-old Chicago bluesman first earned standing ovations from European crowds and began contemplating his eventual move to Paris. Unlike his high-energy recordings in the '90s, Allison is in a relaxed mood throughout the program here, modulating his pointed expressions of heartbreak on blues standards (Little Walter's "Last Night" and Big Bill Broonzy's "Key to the Highway," to name two) and on originals (the title track and "It's Too Late"). Three tracks, all good, are added for CD reissue. On this memorable session, pianist-organist Sid Wingfield and a rhythm section capably back up the main man.