Friday, August 03, 2007

Essential Albert King

Albert King was one of the most important and influential blues artists from the sixties until his death, and had a number of great recordings including two highly influential albums. One was the Stax release,
Born Under a Bad Sign that Fantasy reissued in 2002. This record is still currently available. Here is a review that appeared in the October-November 2002 issue of Jazz & Blues Report.

Fantasy Records which acquired Stax Records sometime ago has reissued the classic Albert King album, Born Under a Bad Sign. This 1967 album was the first album by King for the Memphis label and matched King with a studio band centered around Booker T & the MGs. This was a highly influential recording which, along with Kings mid-seventies album I’ll Play the Blues For You, included a number of songs that became part of the core blues repertoire and shaped how so many artists played the music. Songs include the title track with its great line, “If it wasn’t for bad luck I would not have any luck at all,” the remake of the delta blues Crosscut Saw, with a hot rhythm section and blasting horns, the jaunty The Hunter, with stinging guitar and the bravado line about pretty women being King’s game, the classic blue ballad As the Years Go Passing By, and Personal Manager, where he tells his lady how he would love to manage her affairs. King delivers the vocals and plays some classic guitar mixing long sustained notes with short staccato runs. His sense of phrasing and use of silence is something setting him apart from his many imitators and those influenced by him. The liner notes focus a bit too much on King’s influence on Stevie Ray Vaughan, but the fact is that even as spectacular a guitarist as Otis Rush, who had already made some classic recordings a decade earlier, incorporated elements of King’s style into his own approach. This is an essential disc although much of it might have been previously issued on CD on Atlantic as King of Blues Guitar.

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