Despite deservedly being one of the towering figures of Chicago blues guitar, Otis Rush's recorded output has been both intermittent and inconsistent for various reasons. After his famed Cobra and Chess sides of the '50s and very early '60s, his career trudged along in first gear but it looked like he might break through in the '70s with a handful of solid albums. For whatever reason, this was not to be and Rush virtually disappeared from the scene again until the mid-'90s (except for live albums of varying quality surfacing from time to time). All Your Love I Miss Loving: Live at the Wise Fools Pub Chicago is a recently unearthed live set from early 1976, originally recorded for Chicago's WXRT Sunday Night Unconcert series, and immediately takes its place as one of Rush's best live offerings for several reasons. First off, this was his working band of the time. Bob Levis, Bob Stroger, and Jesse Green all came on board in 1975 for Rush's Delmark debut, Cold Day in Hell, and remained until at least the end of 1977 when Live in Europe and the unfortunately overdubbed and edited Lost in the Blues were recorded. Other live albums have been marred by fair to middling pickup bands. Not only is it his working band, it's the first live Otis Rush album recorded on his own turf; Wise Fools Pub was just about the only Chicago club Rush played at regularly during this time. Excellent sound seals the deal.
The sound is great and the band is clearly on its game, and this is a gritty live performance (which is decidedly not a drawback). There are some audible clams and a bit of feedback here and there, but Rush's passionate singing and playing always carry things to the next level. Fully half the songs are longer than five minutes, giving Rush plenty of solo time. His guitar and vocals are way up front (as they should be), and the band provides perfect support. Alberto Gianquinto's electric piano is pretty low in the mix but that's probably as it should be as well, and this is quite likely the way things sounded that night in the club. For the last third of the program, the band is joined by a couple sax players who don't really add much musically, but having other musicians sit in with the band is a longstanding Chicago blues tradition and simply adds to the authenticity of this recording. Many of these tunes are Rush staples and his classics "All Your Love (I Miss Loving)" and "Gambler's Blues" are here, but he also tackles Robert Nighthawk's "Sweet Little Angel" for the first time on record. These live tracks will never take the place of his Cobra material (which should be on the shelf of everyone who claims to like the blues), but as far as the live stuff goes, All Your Love I Miss Loving: Live at the Wise Fools Pub Chicago is probably the place to start.