Few would argue that Otis Rush is one of the greatest living bluesmen, and few would argue that his Cobra recordings are among the greatest sides ever put to wax. Varese Sarabande Records has reissued these tracks as The Essential Otis Rush – The Classic Cobra Recordings 1956-1958, which capture Rush at his best. The sheer intensity that he brings to these songs is awe-inspiring. Willie Dixon supervised the sessions and the list of supporting musicians reads like a who’s who of Chicago Blues. Little Walter, Big Walter Horton, Jackie Brenston, Red Holloway, Harold Ashby, Lafayette Leake, Little Brother Montgomery, Wayne Bennett, Louis Myers, Ike Turner, Al Duncan and Odie Payne all contributed to these sessions.
Standing above it all, though, is Otis Rush, whose impassioned vocals and fiery guitar take these songs to a higher ground. All of the great tracks are here: “I Can’t Quit You Baby,” “Three Times A Fool,” “Double Trouble,” “Keep On Loving Me Baby,” and “All Your Love (I Miss Loving).”
There were a few missteps (nothing Rush could do would salvage “Violent Love” or “Jump Sister Bessie”), but the highlights far outweigh them.
To me, if Rush had recorded nothing else but “Double Trouble,” his place in blues history would be secure. His tortured vocals, paired with Ike Turner’s searing lead guitar, make this track one for the ages.
The sound quality on this release is a tad improved from the Paula reissue of the early 90s and there are four extra alternate takes. If you are a blues fan of any caliber, these outstanding recordings should already be in your collection. If not, what are you waiting for?
--- Graham Clarke
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