Friday, August 14, 2015

Mose Allison – "Eyesight to the Blind" (1959)

Every time she starts to shakin'
The dumb begin to talk

Mose Allison was born on his grandfather's farm near Tippo, Mississippi, in 1927.  His family had a piano, and when he was only five years old, he started playing the songs he heard on the local jukebox by ear.

"Wait just a cotton-pickin' minute," you say.  (Allison's family grew cotton, by the way.)  "Did they even have jukeboxes in 1932?"

I'm glad you asked.  

The first coin-operated phonograph was invented in 1890.  It could play only one record, and didn't have amplification – you listened through a listening tube.

An eight-turntable audiophone
About the time Allison was born, something called the audiophone was invented.  The audiophone was a coin-operated device with eight turntables in a Ferris wheel-like configuration, with a different 78-RPM record on each turntable.  

When he was in high school, Allison's favorites included Fats Waller, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Louis Jordan and especially Nat "King" Cole.  He played trumpet in the school band and began writing songs of his own.

Mose Allison
By the time he turned 30, Allison had moved to New York City, where he performed and recorded with many jazz greats as well as his own Mose Allison Trio.  

"Eyesight to the Blind" was released in 1959 on Autumn Song, his fifth album for Prestige Records, a famous New York City jazz label:

Allison sped through "Eyesight to the Blind" in only one minute and 43 seconds.  His tempo is so quick that it forces him to elide the original lyrics considerably.  (You have to wonder if the recording studio – or maybe his piano – was on fire.)

Allison has a fairly high voice, and his singing style is not soulful – you'll never mistake Mose Allison for James Brown or Joe Cocker.  His singing on "Eyesight to the Blind" is fine, but what distinguishes this record is the piano solo, which covers a lot of ground in only 40 seconds.  

Here's Mose Allison's "Eyesight to the Blind":

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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