SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews
Otis Rush – Right Place, Wrong Time – Bullfrog Records / Pure Pleasure Records (vinyl)
Published on May 14, 2013
Otis Rush – Right Place, Wrong Time – Bullfrog Records (1976) BF 301/ Pure Pleasure Records (2012) 180-gram stereo audiophile vinyl, 40:44 ****:
(Otis Rush – guitar, vocals; Doug Kilmer – bass; John Kahn – bass; Bob Jones – drums; Fred Burton – guitar; Mark Naftalin – piano; Ira Kamin – organ; John Wilmeth – trumpet; Ron Stallings – tenor saxophone; Hart McNee – alto saxophone)
Otis Rush was born in Mississippi and eventually moved to Chicago to become a blues legend. That narrative may not differentiate him from a lot of blues pickers. However, Rush was a rare left-handed player. In an unusual twist, he played a left-handed guitar, strung upside down with the low E string on the bottom. There is no mistaking his sound. He earned his pedigree in Westside Chicago blues clubs and recorded for several labels, including Chess.
In the sixties he was produced by rock stars Michael Bloomfield and Nick Gravenites. Adding rock and soul to the blues repertoire introduced Rush to a new generation of fans. At Capitol Records (the same label that turned down The Doors) he laid down tracks for an album titled Right Place, Wrong Time.. The project was scrapped, but Rush eventually bought the master tapes. Five years later, in 1976, it was released on Bullfrog Records.
Pure Pleasure Records has re-mastered Right Time, Wrong Place to audiophile vinyl. Listening to this musical giant, it appears that Capitol did not have a sense of the power of a true blues musician. The album gets off to a rousing start on Ike Turner’s “Tore Up”. All of the classic blues chops are represented in this brisk, up tempo romp. Rush’s guitar leads are precise and crisp. He is as good a vocalist as any of the older blues giants. Different from the template, he adds a short key shift on the bridge. As he transitions to late night vibe (title cut), the arrangements which showcase his guitar and vocals remain constant. On the first instrumental “Easy Go”, the soulful punctuation (especially by the horn section), amps up this muscular jam. His rhythm section (John Kahn/bass; Bob Jones/drums and Fred Burton/rhythm guitar) is complementary and cohesive.
Most of the songs percolate, and Rush’s tasteful concise guitar riffs and vocal phrasing are fluid. Albert King’s “Natural Ball” is dynamic. The music has a lot of soul. This resonates on the second instrumental, “I Wonder Why”. This is Chicago blues at its finest. In a more conventional translation, “Your Turn To Cry” is inimitable with the subtle key-shifting introduction Mark Naftalin spices things up with his percussive licks on piano. Rush explodes with intensity on “Lonely Man”. His coarser urgent vocals match the group’s intensity, and the energy never abates. A slight departure is Rush’s agile cover of “Rainy Night In Georgia”. It is much different from Brooke Benton’s meditative r & b…a blues opus! There is ample originality to separate this recording from typical genre offerings.
Pure Pleasure Records has re-mastered Right Time, Wrong Place to 180-gram vinyl with sterling results. The stereo mix is very-balanced, with Rush’s vocals and guitar always centered. You will need to turn the volume up to appreciate the full effect of the horns, piano and organ. For blues enthusiasts, the liner notes by Dick Shurman provide assorted details about the obstacles in Rush’s career and the release of this album.
Side One: Tore Up; Right Place, Wrong Time; Easy Go; Three Times A Fool; Rainy Night In Georgia
Side Two: Natural Ball; I Wonder Why; Your Turn To Cry; Lonely Man; Take A Look Behind