Bernard Allison

Bernard Allison
Energized Live In Europe

Ruf Records RUF 1113 (also on DVD)

By Karen Nugent
February 2007

This double-disc album was recorded in Germany during Allison’s fall 2005 European tour. It is aptly titled, marking Allison’s conquering of substance abuse, along with a revamped rhythm section consisting of Jassen Wilber on bass and Andrew Thomas on drums. The rest of the band is made up solely of Allison on guitar and vocals, and Mike Viahakis on keyboards. And they rock.

Both discs start out promising - meaning bluesy - but about halfway through each one, they drift to other styles, mainly funk, rock and urban pop.

In my humble opinion, the best part of the album is the three instrumentals kicking off the second disc, all written by Allison, and all easily blending into one another for a good 15 minutes or so.

They start out with “The Walk,” a classic delta blues with lots of twangy slide guitar solos that gets very danceable from the outset. Next is “Step Down,” which starts out as “Amazing Grace,” and morphs into “When the Saints Go Marching In,” interspersed with cool guitar licks. The third one, appropriately named, “Talking Guitar” sounds like a weird little guitar voice chatting with the audience, who find the whole thing pretty entertaining.

The next track “Snake Bit Again,” while rockish, is lively.

The beginning of the first disc features a short, funk-laced instrumental, “Another Ride to the City,” followed by a great blues shuffle, “There’s a Man Down There,” with Viahakis hammering the ivories.

The third track, “Bad Love,” a slow blues written by Allison’s famous dad, the late, great Luther Allison, is among the best songs on the album. The elder Allison also wrote the fifth track, “Into My Life” and here, his son does justice to his father’s guitar prowess.

“A Woman Named Trouble” is from the funk-rock side of the street, and “Too Many Women” showcases bass player Wilber. While bass solos might go over well live, and granted, this is a live album, they’re not something you care hear over and over on a record.

The last track on the first disc, “The Way Love Was Meant To Be” is an unfortunate choice of a slow, urban ballad, and it’s quite schmaltzy.

The last part of the nine-song second disc also goes downhill.

The fifth track, “A Change Must Come” is another slow ballad, but Allison’s guitar solo somewhat redeems it. Parts of “Too Cool” which follows, sound a bit like Steely Dan, but does reflect Allison’s ability to incorporate modern sounds. But it’s not blues.

Another instrumental, “Wah Wah Action” has a lot of peppy you-know-what on it, and the audience gets into it. One of the last two songs on the second disc, “Don’t Be Confused,” - one of six on the album written by Bernard Allison - is a sad retrospective on his depression and subsequent redemption after his father’s death. (“But now the time has come to replace my Dad today/My daddy taught me how to be strong, he expects us all to carry on. Don’t Be No Fool/Just Keep Your Cool.”

The last song, “I Just Came Back to Say Goodbye” is a rocker about an ex-lover with kick-ass guitar by Allison.

Allison, 41, first joined his father on stage for a live recording at age 13, and played with him regularly until Luther’s death in 1997. He polished his fantastic style in Koko Taylor’s band, and played in Willie Dixon’s Blues All Stars.

He moved to Paris in 1989 to play, tour and record with his father, but moved back to the U.S. in 1999, two years after his father’s death. That same year, he released his first solo album, The Next Generation,’’ and has released seven with Denmark-based RUF Records since then.

You can catch Allison in July at the North Atlantic Blues Festival in Rockland, Maine.

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