Sunday, August 02, 2009

Recalling Albert Washington

During the 1960s and '70s, Washington recorded many albums for Fraternity Records and performed at Cincinnati clubs andconcerts. His music was said to reflect influences of gospel, rhythm and blues, and funk." A bio of Washington on the web gives his age as 53 at death and notes Lonnie Mack played on some of his singles. He recorded a couple singles for Jewel that were terrific mixes of soul and blues. The following is my contemporaneous review of the first of the two Iris albums that tried to promote his musical comeback. His best work shows he is one of many who never quite reached the acclaim he should have.

Albert Washington is a singer-guitarist who made a number of singles from the late fifties to the seventies for such labels as Fraternity and Jewel, one of which, If You Need Me, was covered by the Rolling Stones. Born in Georgia, but a Cincinnati resident for most of his adult life, he hasn’t recorded for twenty years. Iris Records, an independent label that previously issued some notable jazz recordings has just remedied this with Step It Up and Go, a newly released album containing ten originals and a nice reworking of the Buddy and Ella Johnson classic, Since I Fell For You. Washington suffers from high blood pressure, and near blindness, both derived from diabetes. While his voice can’t soar as high as on his classic deep soul recordings, this fifty three year singer certainly comes across as soulful as ever on a program of mostly modern blues with several tracks, such as Hard Days and The Good Old Days, showing more than a hint of southern soul.. He receives solid backing here, with horns on a few tracks, and harmonica on a few others, although horns suit his music far better than the harp. Bruce Katz’s keyboards are particularly worthy of note, and Kevin Barry adds some nice guitar. The bass and drums simply provide a basic foundation, but without as much imagination as Katz and Barry. A couple of message tunes, Things Are Getting Bad and Leave Them Drugs Alone, add variety to his blues and soul laments like Hold On To a Good Woman, a fine slow blues with Katz and Barry both featured. A solid, promising return of a midwest blues legend.

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