Van Morrison

Tell Me Something: The Songs of Mose Allison

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Great idea on paper -- invite rock's Van Morrison, his then-organ/vocal-sidekick Georgie Fame, singer/pianist/producer Ben Sidran, and Mose Allison himself to compile a celebration of one of the most delightfully idiosyncratic songwriters of our time. And these are serious Allison buffs indeed, for they chose tunes from the back catalog that Mose rarely performed live in the '90s, with hardly a well-known Allison standard in the batch (the exception being "I Don't Want Much"). The hang-up is that Allison's own performances over the decades are so unique and right for their material that they pose a creative problem for anyone who wants to give these songs a different slant. Accordingly, with one exception, these guys fall back upon imitating the master, bowing low and not really saying anything new. Sidran is an outright Allison vocal clone -- he's got all of the slides, accents, and hip attitudes down pat -- though his piano doesn't sound anything like Allison's. Fame is not quite as literal, and he seems a bit stodgier by comparison. Meanwhile, Van the Man just does his own thing, paying little mind to the Mose manner, bending these tunes to his will, and pulling it off in style. Mose's participation consists of a couple of loose, chummy duets with Morrison on "I Don't Want Much" and "Perfect Moment." The band is a small combo that you can imagine playing in an English pub, with saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis and trumpeter Guy Barker giving the sound an R&B flavor. It's a good record actually, but it makes you aware of why there hadn't been many Mose tributes before. How can one compete when the creator is still alive and swinging?

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