Any Place I'm Going
(House of Blues)
First Appeared in The Music Box, September 1998, Volume 5, #9
Written by John Metzger
Otis Rush was born and raised in Mississippi. There, he learned to play harmonica and developed his unusual style of guitar playing. (He plays the instrument upside-down and left-handed).
Rush moved to Chicago in 1948 and embraced the Delta blues recordings of Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf as well as the music of B.B. and Albert King. In 1956, with the help of Willie Dixon, he obtained a recording contract with Cobra Records and cut his first single — Dixon's I Can't Quit You Baby. The song was Cobra's only R&B top 10 hit, and it planted the seed that grew into Chicago's "West Side sound."
Over the years, Rush moved from label to label, but released few recordings. Yet he managed to reach the burgeoning music scene in England, inspiring Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger, Jeff Beck, Peter Green, and Jimmy Page, who copped Rush's I Can't Quit You, Baby solo for Led Zeppelin's own recording of the song.
Rush further flirted with the rock 'n‘ roll world when Mike Bloomfield of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band convinced Albert Grossman, manager of Bob Dylan and Janis Joplin, also to represent Rush. But after securing a recording contract with a subsidiary of Atlantic Records, Rush released Mourning for the Morning, a disappointing album marred by the overproduction of Bloomfield and Nick Gravenites.
Rush changed record companies, and this time, he signed with Capitol Records. Gravenites and Bloomfield were once again tapped to produce the 1971 album Right Place Wrong Time. In the end, Capitol chose not to release it, despite the fact that it was heralded as Rush's most inspired recording. Instead, the album remained on the shelves until Bullfrog Records, an independent label, purchased the recording in 1976. Unfortunately, the album lived up to its title and sold poorly because the public's interest in the blues had virtually disappeared.
Rush continued to perform, but his recording output diminished even further. He entered a short period of retirement before returning to performing in the mid-'80s, though he often used pickup bands in his performances outside of Chicago.
Rush's latest release Any Place I'm Going on the House of Blues label should allow him to assume his rightful place as a blues legend. From the opening notes of You Fired Yourself to the final groove of Walking the Back Streets and Crying, it's quickly apparent how influential Rush has been in his career. The influences that he drew from and those musicians that he influenced merge into one cohesive and stunningly beautiful disc.
Laughin' and Clownin' displays how much Rush not only influenced Clapton's guitar playing, but also his singing style. The reggae-infused title track Any Place I'm Going (Beats Any Place I've Been), co-written with Will Jennings, includes gospel-tinged backing vocals, as does an up-tempo cover of Marvin Gaye's Pride and Joy.
Throughout Any Place I'm Going, Rush's band is augmented by a horn section that punctuates most of the tracks with colorful bursts of raw energy. His guitar sings with tempestuous power, raining carefully-crafted notes as if his life depended upon it. Rush's vocals are equally potent and passionate, filling each song with an immeasurable need to convey his deepest emotions. Without a doubt, Otis Rush is back and has delivered a magnificent album that deserves to be heard.
Any Place I'm Going is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 1998 The Music Box