Mose Allison is the cool voice of jazz and blues who influenced a generation of British musicians. Here are his definitive performances of the songs that made his name.
At 89 years of age, Mose Allison may be the last blues singer to have actually picked cotton in the Mississippi Delta. Born in the tiny settlement of Tippo, basically a crossroads in the middle of farmland, his family were landowners who made sure he worked on their farm as a boy. He was brought up surrounded by the blues and ingested the sounds of a jukebox situated in the gas station which served as a hang-out for the local community. From there he passed through Memphis, New Orleans and Texas, slowly learning his trade as a pianist before heading for New York where he worked for Al Cohn and Stan Getz.
In 1957 he signed to Prestige where he recorded his first album, “Back Country Suite”, a series of blues piano pieces influenced by Bela Bartok. One title, ‘Blues’, a short melodious piece later renamed ‘Young Man Blues’, featured Allison’s striking voice, pointing to his future career. Whilst he continued to develop as a pianist, it was his voice allied with his own compositions, or clever reinventions of other artist’s songs, that became his calling card. This compilation gathers together the very best examples recorded for Prestige, Columbia/Epic and Atlantic between 1957 and 1971, highlighting his distinctive talent as a witty, sardonic songwriter who has his eyes on the trials and absurdities of modern life.
In interviews Allison states that his records hardly sold and suggests Atlantic only kept him on because he was friends with co-owner Nesuhi Ertegun, but this belies the incredible influence he had across the Atlantic. Unlike many US artists, his recordings were released in the UK from the start, his Prestige albums appearing on Esquire in the late 50s when they were lapped up by nascent mods searching for modern jazz and blues and up-and-coming musicians who would burst onto the scene in the 1960s. His songs were covered by the Yardbirds, Brian Auger, the Clash, Elvis Costello and, perhaps most importantly, the Who, who made ‘Young Man Blues’ the opening track of their “Live At Leeds” album, and Georgie Fame, whose hit-making career of the mid-60s was based on licks learned from Allison.
“I’m Not Talkin’ – The Song Stylings Of Mose Allison” contains all the songs which became staples of UK rock bands in the 1960s, as well as lesser-known selections such as ‘If You’re Goin’ To The City’ and ‘Everybody Cryin’ Mercy’. Recorded in a time of change, they show an artist whose style landed fully formed and never really altered. Instead he kept things interesting by developing and perfecting his bluesy craft. These are very special and highly influential recordings.