[17] Mose Allison – Allison Wonderland

2 Aug

I keep being amazed at the depth and breadth of my ignorance as I discover these wonderful recordings.

Perhaps it just goes to show quite how much talent, what volume of music is actually out there. I know I don’t have the most comprehensive musical background, but I have always been inquisitive and open minded, still here is yet another hole in my education.

I know I’ve never heard of Mose Allison – it’s not a name I’m likely to have forgotten! – but I don’t understand why not. Is the fault mine, or is everyone unaware? Why isn’t he a household name?

I get the feeling Frank Zappa knows Mose Allison.
And probably ‘Weird’ Al Yankovic as well . . .

Mose Allison - Allison Wonderland

Mose Allison – Allison Wonderland










Allison Wonderland begins with a solo voice – intimate, up close and in the room personal – hanging out with no accompaniment before the piano kicks in and the album is underway. I love the sound instantly, even before engaging with the lyrics which, according to Moon, are the reason to hear this performer.

The sound quality is amazing for songs recorded more than 25 years ago, let alone the 50 years of the earliest tracks. It is testament to Allison’s vocal quality, so clean, straightforward and timeless.

The first disc of this two-disc anthology is full of bite sized songs, tiny and perfectly formed. The structure and sound of the blues tracks that start the album are so familiar as to get out of the way and let you focus on the voice, and the lyrics he imparts.

And then neat takes on a pair of very familiar songs, “Baby Please Don’t Go” and “Hey Good Looking”. Smooth swinging versions with the snare drum leading the way. At times it almost sounds as if he is scatting despite the fact that each lyric is fully articulated.

By the second disc we’ve left the blues behind and are rolling around in the slinky jazz horns and almost arhythmical yumminess of cautionary tales like “Monsters of the Id”, the beatnik lounge sound of “How Much Truth”.

It’s almost two different artists – the simple piano blues of the early Allison, and the big band, lightly experimental jazz of the later Allison – but the thing that ties them together is a subversiveness, often lyrically, but also at times musically.

This is not like Arthur Alexander’s blending of genres. Allison starts firmly in one world and moves comfortably to another by the end of the collection, strictly following the conventions and affects of each.

But back to those lyrics.

Even just casual listening keeps spitting out snippets of language into the listener’s consciousness. There are myriad lyrics worthy of a post-it in my brother’s quote blog:

“I don’t need much / But I will take more”

“Ever since the world ended / I don’t go out as much / People that I once befriended / Just don’t bother to stay in touch”

“No matter how you’re feeling / I’d like to propose a toast / If you’re almost successful / You’re better off than most”

“You call it jogging / But I call it running around”

“Baby we two can get along / I’m never right / You’re never wrong / So meet me at no special place / And I’ll be there at no particular time”

“I don’t ask much in this life / No special consideration / Just treat me like the new Premiere / Of a small strategic nation”

All in that light, easy, distinctive and distinguished voice.

His ripping of the music industry in “Top Forty” predates Scatterbrain’s “Tastes Just Like Chicken” by generations, and later his description of modern living in “If You’re Goin’ To The City” is too scathing to actually be funny – this would be anarchic, if it wasn’t set to such an exceptionally good tune!

And I could listen to his band riffing all day.

As the tones of this exceptional album seep out of my office, people stop to ask what I’m listening to. This has happened far less often than I expected since I began my blog, but here is an artist that people get excited about just hearing in passing.

The fact that this two-disc career retrospective weighs in at 47 tracks means that I and others will keep returning to it, catching new caustic zingers with each listen.

There is just so much quantity here, and it is all quality. There is a progression which avoids any feeling of sameness – a whole tied together by Allison’s voice and, perhaps even moreso, his mind.

I find myself sitting here with a big grin on my face as I listen to Allison explain how we’re all doomed.

Owned before blogging? No. (1 of 17. 6%)
Heard before blogging? No. (3 of 17. 18%)
Recommend? Yes. (13 of 17. 76%)

Next Week: The Allman Brothers Band – At Fillmore East


4 Responses to “[17] Mose Allison – Allison Wonderland”

  1. Mark Salzwedel August 2, 2013 at 10:18 AM #

    My favorite of his is “The Seventh Son,” the version from the Prestige “Greatest Hits” album.

  2. nycavri August 3, 2013 at 2:28 PM #

    My favorite changes every time I listen – there’s always “another brilliant zinger”. I agree there’s some good stuff on “The Seventh Son” though.


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