Blues Bytes


June 2017

Otis Rush
Double Trouble: Live Cambridge 1973
Rockbeat Records

Otis Rush

Due to his inactivity since a 2004 stroke, fans of Chicago blues legend Otis Rush have consoled themselves by collecting the great singer / guitarist’s precious few studio releases and the assorted live albums that have been issued over the years. While the live sets have occasionally been hit or miss, the last few releases have been very satisfying. Prime examples are the wonderful Delmark set recorded in early 1976 at the Wise Fools Pub issued in 2005, the more recent live set from San Francisco released by Blues Express in 2006, and the more recently released Double Trouble: Live Cambridge 1973 (Rockbeat Records).

Recorded live at Joe’s Place in Cambridge, Massachusetts in May of 1973, this set finds Rush in good form, backed by his long time bass player, Ernest Gatewood, tenor sax player Little Bo, and drummer Bob Richey. There’s also an unidentified keyboardist, faintly heard in the background on a few tracks. The 11-song set includes readings of several of Rush’s historic ’50s Cobra sides (“I Can’t Quit You Baby,” “Keep On Loving Me Baby,” “It Takes Time,” and the title track), plus a few that are usually associated with B.B. King (“Gambler’s Blues,” “Please Love Me,” and “Why I Sing The Blues”). I’d never heard Rush perform the last song, and this is a very good performance.

Rush also includes three instrumentals, opening with Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man,” a funky “Popcorn,” that recalls a James Brown vamp (with a nice turn on sax from Little Bo), and “I Think It’s Gonna Work Out Fine,” the Ike & Tina classic that Rush also covered on Chicago! The Blues! Today! in the mid-’60s. Rush closes out the set with an excellent reading of James Brown’s “Please Please Please” that puts his considerable vocal talents on full display.

Sometimes the sound quality on recently unearthed live sets leaves a lot to be desired (such as that Buddy Guy/Junior Wells set that’s been floating around for decades in various packages --- run, don’t walk in the other direction if you run across that one), but this set has very good sound and might well encourage others to check out some of Rockbeat’s other recently-issued live recordings from other artists. As far as Otis Rush is concerned, this set would have to rank in the upper tier of his live catalog, and should be required listening for any fan of Rush or vintage Chicago blues.

--- Graham Clarke



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