review by Lang Thompson
This CD comprises two albums: Every Day I Have the Blues (recorded 1967) and Livin' the Blues (recorded 1968; actually this last is seven tracks at 36 minutes so there's a slim chance it isn't the entire album), both originally on ABC Bluesway though release dates aren't given and I can't find any discographies to check. Every Day finds sixty-something Rushing backed by a septet of jazzers (including Clark Terry, Grady Tate, Dicky Wells and Hank Jones on organ rather than piano) playing Oliver Nelson arrangements, the whole thing held together by the blues form itself. Some accompaniment sounds almost randomly placed and songs like "Baby, Don't Tell on Me" and "Every Day I Have the Blues" very nearly fall apart. This gives the album an off-hand, slightly distant quality like the musicians showed up, laid down the tracks and then left. Rushing is good enough but rarely rises beyond hitting the marks. Admittedly there's always a certain detachment in so-called urban blues, a sort of irony at singing that every single day I've got the blues that's noticably different from the streak of gallows humor that runs through the Delta or the equal-roads approach of songsters like Leadbelly. At the weakest on this album, their haphazard approach leads to topical trash like "Berkeley Campus Blues" ("I'm gonna wear tight pants and grow me a Van Dyke / Gonna be the kind of cat the bashful Berkeley co-eds like") which can't even boast camp value a quarter-century down the road. On the other hand, much more impressive is "I Left My Baby" which deploys moody horns like that's why the blues were invented.
Livin' the Blues is a bit better because the band is more focused, riding the beat and tossing off more appropriate solos. Perhaps it's in second position due to the lesser known names (Dave Frishberg, Hugh McCracken, Bob Bushnell). Moving the guitars upfront certainly helps as does a feeling of the essential rightness of the blues rather than the earlier album's quasi-conceptual approach. Still, songs like "Bad Loser" could almost be parodies; actually I'm not sure it isn't but Rushing & Co. take it at face value and so will anybody listening. But material like "Take Me Back Baby" and "Cryin' Blues" start from better positions and nobody lets the material slip past.
Modest pleasures certainly but if you don't already have several CDs of Rushing with Basie or his solo 50s work then there's no reason to go for this.
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