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Picks and Pans Review: Reckless

updated 09/22/1997 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/22/1997 01:00AM

Luther Allison

This should have been a triumphant milestone for Luther Allison, the album that reestablished the veteran performer some 15 years after he emigrated to Paris and became a European sensation. Sadly it will serve as a kind of epitaph: Allison, 57, died on Aug. 12, months after the album's release, shortly after canceling a U.S. tour due to lung and brain cancer.

The domestic comeback, which began with the 1994 release of Soul Fixin' Man, reaches its height on Reckless, which spotlights Allison's intense, focused guitar work and gravelly, soulful vocals. From uptempo rockers to contemplative acoustic blues, and from bouncy, horn-driven soul tunes to organ-fueled, gospel-style ballads, Allison performed with the fiery energy of a teenager and the grizzled soul of a veteran. He also revealed a strong songwriting hand, largely avoiding standard shuffles while intelligently tackling discrimination, inner-city decay and welfare reform along with more typical blues topics such as heartbreak, longing and adultery. Occasionally, Allison's exuberance got the best of him, and he veered into overkill, but he generally remained reckless in the best sense of the word, and Reckless provides countless reminders of just how much he will be missed. (Alligator)

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