Otis Spann

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Otis Spann

Postby blueswriter » Mon Apr 09, 2007 2:40 am

OTIS SPANN
The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions
Columbia/Blue Horizon (2006) 682 290-2

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2 CDs, 28 tracks, 132 minutes - essential. It's close to impossible to overstate the importance of what Otis Spann brought to the meaning and definition of Chicago blues piano. In a relatively short recording career that began with Muddy Waters in 1953, Otis took part in a dizzying number of sessions over the next seventeen years appearing on record with Howlin' Wolf, Little Walter, Jimmy Rogers, Junior Wells, Lowell Fulson, Bo Diddley, Billy Boy Arnold, Sonny Boy Williamson, Chuck Berry, Buddy Guy, Johnny Young, Lonnie Johnson, James Cotton, Floyd Jones, Eddie Taylor, Johnny Shines, John Lee Hooker, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and others, in addition to somehow finding time to record sessions under his own a good number of times. Spann's days as a major blues artist came to an end with his death in April of 1970 - he was only forty years old. Of the 28 tracks included, Can't Do Me No Good and Bloody Murder date from June of 1968 while Someday Soon Baby and Hungry Country Girl stem from April of 1969. The remaining twenty-four cuts come from a session cut in January of 1969 with Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac providing the sympathetic backing. Spann's piano work throughout shows a master of timing and space at work, wholly in his element, completely focused, and totally relaxed with little else on his mind aside from his blues. As a vocalist, Otis possessed a warm and inviting smoky rasp that matched his earthy piano - a perfect blending of style that was born in the South and fully matured in the bustling surroundings of Chicago's rough neighborhoods and taverns. His piano work alternates between absolutely incredible clusters of notes that surround the listener in blue cascades just as surely as he leans hard on pairs of rippling notes so blue and deep that they seem to come from within him and not his instrument. For those unaware, My Love Depends On You displays everything a classic Post-war Blues recording should, regardless of the age or origin of his backing unit; Spann's piano intro mines brilliantly violent territory, his low and rolling voice tears at the listener showing both despair and hope, Peter Green's mature and slashing guitar work belies a man of twenty-two, and the rhythm section of John McVie and S.P. Leary lock in perfectly allowing the music to breathe effortlessly. That track alone should be enough to convince anyone of Spann's abilities but there's plaenty more including It Was A Big Thing, She Needs Some Loving, Temperature Is Rising, I Need Some Air, and a version of Ain't Nobody's Business so far behind-the-beat it's as if the band were across the street while Spann sat alone plying his trade in another studio. Most of disc two, a total of a dozen tracks, were previously unissued and include studio banter, false starts, and aborted takes giving the feeling of having been at this session. Another major bonus is the remixing on disc one offering sound that far outstrips your worn version of The Biggest Thing Since Colossus. If you aren't yet hip to the blues of Otis Spann, his genius is front-and-center on The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions - and his band offers a stunning display of what being 'in-the-pocket' means.

Blue Horizon Records

© 2007 by Craig Ruskey
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Postby jeffl » Mon Apr 09, 2007 11:43 am

Thanks again B-Ddub! Otis is one of my heroes.
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Postby blueswriter » Mon Apr 09, 2007 12:41 pm

jeffl wrote:Thanks again B-Ddub! Otis is one of my heroes.


I try putting bias aside for reviews but I have to admit that Otis is the definition of blues for me!
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