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The Unknown Music: Bernard Allison – ‘The Otherside’

Never judge a book by its cover.

Editor’s note: As part of CMN’s ongoing music journalism program, we asked our team of music writers to find and write about a physical piece of music (CD, album or cassette) they had no prior knowledge of. You can find out how it all unfolded by browsing our music section

Strolling through the music at Freakbeat Records, I found a hidden gem: The Otherside by Bernard Allison.

College Media Network The Unknown Music: Bernard Allison - 'The Otherside'

I stumbled upon it while browsing the jazz/blues section and it caught my eye because of the simple album cover that had black skies and trees with red thunder slamming onto them. It was simple, but I thought that it may be more when it came to music.

The album’s image expressed itself – it gave off the gloomy blues feel and it seemed intense. What really got me was was that my find was accidental — the record was misplaced in a random section and without being able to listen to it at the shop, I read the back of the album cover and the song titles intrigued me.

When I purchased the used album (released in 2010), it was worn out and the CD holder was thin might have fallen apart if I opened it wrong, but the CD played smoothly. The music is vibey and something to tap your feet and swing your body to.

Not all of the tracks included him Allison singing, but in “Tired of Tryin” he sounds romantic and sweet. He’d be singing for a woman and convincing her that she should be finding someone else if that woman is being mistreated by her man. I believe there is Jimi Hendrix inspiration in Allison’s music because of his vocals and guitar playing.

The record was not in its best shape with a look that it went through a lot during its times and had a lot of history with being kept in someone’s home for years or passed onto many — the thought of it was intriguing. I left the store and walked back to my car on a sunny afternoon, rolled down my windows and played the album in my stereo while driving back home.

 It felt vintage— like I needed to be at a dark atmospheric jazz bar sipping cocktails dressed in fancy apparel. But it also had me thinking that part of me was in the 90s in an underground venue smoking a cigarette in the back alley with Allison playing his rock, funk and blues.

The album has epic guitar solos and it changes to blues and funk with piano and guitars, then the next song would mix blues and rock. Allison shredded heavily on the guitar solo, piano played like there was no tomorrow, saxophone performed in diverse waves of notes with a dash of class, and transitions of blues and funk would collide. It was electrifying as I drove down the neighborhoods with the sun bright as day in the sky and brisk air blowing in my hair.

It’s one of those jams that you can’t help but stand up and dance freely like no one’s watching.

Most jazz and blues albums from record stores have very simple titles, I’ve learned every time I purchase one that they’re always so much fun. My favorite from the album is “Clear Vision.” It starts off rock-y with the electric guitar and the pianos and blues come in a minute or two after with the saxophone and collide all at once including Allison’s vocals.

Lastly, I chose this album because I’m in love with jazz and blues and thought it would be interesting to take a trip to my go-to record store and get lost for hours finding musicians I wasn’t aware of.

Allison has brought soul, emotion, and passion into jazz. The best way to explain The Otherside is “never judge a book by its cover.”

Choosing this record opened my eyes into Allison’s perspective, leaving me wanting more of his creations. I fell in love with his sound and groove. I chose to look for artists that weren’t big stars and to find hidden musicians that people don’t know or talk about that bring beautiful music to this world.

If you obsess over singers and bands, and are one of those people who make a playlist for every occasion, join CMN’s Music Journalism Course and get real-time experience, intense feedback on your writing, exposure to music industry insiders, and a great place to display build your portfolio. Get all the details on the Music Journalism Course here.

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