Monday, July 26, 2004

Mose Allison - Allison Wonderland (Rhino, 1994)
With all due respect to the Gershwins and some others, I think that Mose Allison is the finest lyric writer that America has ever produced. While most singers of jazz and blues (Allison straddles that divide like few others) concentrate on the time worn standards of the genre, Allison writes most of his own tunes, and they are lyrics like nothing else - everything from growing old to man's place in the Universe.

This two-disc collection is probably the best of the number that Rhino made in the mid 1990's. That Allison's output from the 50's to the 80's was so consistently fine is probably the reason why: throwing darts at the Mose catalog would yield a serviceable collection. There is an embarrassment of riches here, from the early piano blues of "Back Country Suite" and "V-8 Ford Blues" which come from his earliest period to the classic sides he cut with the Atlantic label like "Everybody's Cryin' Mercy" and "I Don't Want Much." There are also a number of well chosen covers like Percy Mayfield's "Lost Mind" and Willie Dixon's "I Live the Life I Love."

The end of the set covers some of his finest Blue Note material like "Ever Since the World Ended," "Ever Since I Stole the Blues" and "Hello There Universe" which manage to wax philosophical without being the least bit coy or foolish. Mose Allison is a true treasure, a musician that bridges jazz and blues equally and remains one of the most original songwriters to this day. This set remains a perfect introduction to his work if you are not that familiar with it, or a convenient package for fans, where they can find his most well known songs in one place.

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