Otis Spann

Live the Life

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This release includes 16 rare and previously unissued Otis Spann tracks recorded between 1964 and 1969. Featuring the blues piano genius in both a solo context and supporting a bevy of Chicago artists in a variety of settings, this plows through Pete Welding's old Testament tape vaults to uncover new treasures by the carload. Muddy Waters is listed on the front cover and, indeed, 12 of the 16 songs here are played in his company, most of it in the unusual role of backup musician to Spann. The compilation begins with five songs from a Martin Luther King tribute concert in 1968 featuring Spann and Waters on acoustic guitar performing as an "unplugged" duo, including a heartfelt "Tribute to Martin Luther King" standing next to his own tribute to Big Maceo Merriweather, "Worried Life Blues." Next up are seven tracks from a late-'60s Muddy Waters concert, kicking off with Spann doing a rip-roaring "Kansas City" and a somber take of "Tin Pan Alley," and dueting later with Waters on a gospel-tinged "I Wanna Go Home." Spann's piano work in both of these live settings is nothing short of elegant and extraordinary, whether he's soloing, comping perfectly behind Waters' vocals, or directing the band with an all-knowing lick. Two solo tracks from 1965 ("Everything's Gonna Be Alright" and "What's on Your Worried Mind") are followed by two songs showcasing Spann as a session player behind Johnny Young and harmonica man Slim Willis. Perhaps not the most essential Otis Spann collection you'll ever hear, but one that nonetheless showcases his wide range of talents.

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