Lessons in Livingby Mose Allison
Recorded in a live setting in 1982 -- the same year as his Middle Class White Boy album -- Lessons in Living is a mixed bag. The material is terrific, and Mose Allison is in typically fine form. The issue lies more with the "all-star" band assembled for the date: bassist Jack Bruce, drummer Billy Cobham, and soloists Eric Gale (guitarist) and Lou Donaldson ( alto saxophonist). For starters, Allison didn't need a large band --or any band, really -- to shine. Though he had been absent from the recording scene for six years until that point, he had continued to perform live and his chops as both a pianist and a singer are stellar. These players, fine as they are, don't seem to understand the subtler kind of magic that Allison puts across in a club setting, and don't know how to lay back enough -- this is particularly the case with Cobham, who is overly busy throughout the date, double-timing already fast tunes like "Wild Man in the Street." Bruce, playing electric bass, has a wonderful facility to move and shift gears with the pianist, but still feels a shade behind Cobham's fast and furious beat -- the overdriven "Your Mind Is on Vacation" is a case in point. That said, Allison feels like he is having the time of his life. Donaldson's solo on "You Are My Sunshine" is stirring and raw, something that feels jarring at first with the wonderfully relaxed groove of Allison's arrangement, but fits like a glove after a chorus. The stomping pace of Willie Dixon's "Seventh Son" is a highlight on the set with Cobham lightening his touch a bit and Allison's vocal is swaggering and tough. The laid-back blues of "Everybody Is Crying Mercy" is another gem, with the band holding Allison's blues loose and easy. Lessons in Living is basically for Allison devotees, but it has fantastic moments. Ironically, Allison didn't return to recording again for another three years in 1986 after this set was issued.
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