Otis Rush, the West Side Bluesman, is one of the rarities of American Blues Music. Like Albert King, he is a self-taught left-handed guitarist who plays an upside down right-handed and strung guitar, has great innovative bends (especially Otis' signature "lazy" vibrato) and sings with a convincing passion. There is very little available for fans to see. In 2003 the "Live Blues Part 1" on Blues Express was released showing us an older, slower Mr Rush BUT with a fabulous band! I would highly recommend this set too!
This DVD was eagerly awaited by all Blues fans. It was shot in 1986 and shows us a younger (52) Otis in his first of three Montreux performances between 1986 and 1996 (thanks to Eric Clapton). Otis had been to Europe with the AFBF in the 1960s and his input in those DVDs is very exciting. In this set he has the Professor Eddie Lusk Blues Review as his backup group and honestly-they are only adequate. Otis needs a horn section and a tighter drummer and bassist to bring out his sound. Otis himself sings great and puts over a very good overall performance. His guitar is a little thin and down in the mix. However we learn a few great things about his technique--like he plays a lot without a pick and also when he does pick he uses it from different sides and angles-pretty cool! And the most revealing item: his great vibrato is done not only with his ring finger-but also his forefinger. I'm sure this is where Mike Bloomfield picked it up-one of Mike's most distinctive licks!
The set is very good and comprehensive for 1986. Many tunes are from his "Right Place, Wrong Time" LP. An LP that took ten years to be released. He starts with "Tops" which is from an album he recorded at the San Francisco Blues Festival and is probably his best live CD. Then he does his Earl Hooker signature tune "I Wonder Why" (or Blues in D Natural) which is a bit slow and underplayed by the bass and drummer. He then does Little Milton's "Lonely Man" and things pick up. This was also an Albert King tune and Otis further includes Albert's "Crosscut Saw" "Let's Have a Natural Ball" and the very nice "You Don't Love Me"-done as Albert King's funkiest instrumental, Peter Green did it with the Bluesbreakers and Al Kooper did it on "Super Session"-and later Gary Moore did it at Montreux in 1990. Otis does this tune excellent and laid back. Willie Cobb would have been proud.
The tune "Gambler's Blues" shows Otis's excellence with the slow blues. This tune is a medley with "It's My Own Fault". These are both B.B. King tunes as well (a major Rush influence). T-Bone Walker's "Mean Old World" is offered a tune he did a lot in the 1970s -it's a bit uptempo and cool! Eric Clapton comes out and plays very well (with his Fender Custom Shop Strat in red to match Otis' ES-355 Gibson!). Much better on most of his latest efforts. He helps out on several Otis tunes and curiously opens the vocal on "Double Trouble". This is like coming to a Rolling Stones concert and another person playing the riff in "Satisfaction" instead of Keith Richards. This is strange! And Otis also has mike problems as well. Eric's guitar is a bit too thick but his phrasing is really excellent.The Rush signature tune "All Your Love" is really great-look out for the facial expression of the Lusk Band's guitar player, Tony Palmer (who, interestingly is featured in the new Jimmy Burns DVD! 20 years later!) watching Eric's solo, it's a classic!
Luther Allison comes out and does one number. It is really a song tribute to Otis not really "Everyday I Have the Blues"!! Luther over does it a bit I think and his guitar is way too distorted. But he was a Hendrix disciple!
Any footage on the West Side Bluesmen is scarse. Freddie King has had several releases of which "The...Beat" is probably best-shows him in his pre-1970s period. Buddy Guy has had a lot of later material like "Lightning In A Bottle" but hardly anything from his early days (best is the DVD release with Muddy Waters and Junior Wells at Montreux: "Messin' With The Blues", in the early 1970s): Magic Sam only has only one recorded performance on the 2nd AFBF DVD. and Otis has the two mentioned in this review and a tune done in Scorsese's Blues Film "Father's and Sons" (as an extra).
If you love Blues music pick up this DVD. A great record of Otis Rush's career and you'll see him younger than any other performance except the AFBF "I Can't Quit You Baby" in the 1960s.