Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Otis Rush - Troubles, Troubles (Verve, 1978, 2006)

This album has a bit of a checkered history. Recorded in Sweden in the mid-70's, it limped out on a small label, and then saw wider release on the Alligator label but with overdubbed keyboards and horns, a move that was roundly criticized at the time. Now Verve is re-releasing the original album as part of its Sonet Blues Story series, restoring the original version and adding a couple of alternate takes. The music is composed of a mix of standards, including a couple of Jimmy Reed tunes and originals; uptempo and slower tunes. All songs feature Rush's wonderful guitar playing, but the uptempo songs seem to fare a little better overall. Otis's voice seems surprisingly flat and that may have led to Alligator's decision to overdub. Standout tracks include a blasting "You've Been an Angel" short and sweet at under three minutes, but with the intensity to rival some of his legendary Cobra recordings. Versions of Jimmy Reed's "Baby What Do You Want Me To Do" and "You Don't Have to Go" work well as mid-tempo grinders, and "Hold Your Train" gets him to show some of his most passionate singing of the LP. There are only a few missteps, none of them deal breakers - he doesn't quite have the strutting braggadocio in his singing to pull of Willie Dixon's "Little Red Rooster" and the title track "Troubles, Troubles, Troubles" is held back by some weak vocals (but buoyed by great guitar work.) Who knows, maybe he had a cold that day. Despite being recorded in Europe, this is pure Chicago blues, and it's good to have back in its original unadulterated form.

Send comments to: Tim