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Live in the Windy City Blues

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Album Review

This is a rehash of a very bad CD on the Tomato label entitled Blues Masters. It consists of extremely lo-fi recordings of Otis Rush and Little Walter performing separately with two entirely different backing groups. Purportedly recorded at the Chicago Blues Festival in 1967, the Otis Rush four-song set sounds more like a club recording than an outdoor festival date, but because the sound is so muffled and grainy, it's a tough call. There's only one real blues in the mix: the disc's opener, "It's Hard for Me to Believe, Baby." Otis then whips off two James Brown numbers, "May Be the Last Time" and "I Feel Good," before laying down the jazzy instrumental "Jambo" (here creatively titled "Otis' Blues"). The real heartbreakers come with the four Little Walter tracks. Not only is Walter at the end of the line, attempting to blow harp with a collapsed lung, but he's saddled with the lousiest, no-time-keeping bunch of hippie blues players imaginable. Walter's time gets all over the place on "You're So Fine" (here stupidly retitled "Lovin' You All the Time"), and his version of "Goin' Down Slow" is such a painful portrait of what his life had become that it'll tear your heart out. But he gamely blows with whatever he's got left on "Walter's Blues" and "Watermelon Man" (here retitled "Blue Mood." For completists only.


Born: May 1, 1930 in Marksville, LA

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s

Who's the king of all post-war blues harpists, Chicago division or otherwise? Why, the virtuosic Little Walter, without a solitary doubt. The fiery harmonica wizard took the humble mouth organ in dazzling amplified directions that were unimaginable prior to his ascendancy. His daring instrumental innovations were so fresh, startling, and ahead of their time that they sometimes sported a jazz sensibility, soaring and swooping in front of snarling guitars and swinging rhythms perfectly suited to Walter's...
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