A Fantastic Compilation of Rare Stax Singles.
Perry Celestino | Tahmoor, NSW Australia | 09/09/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"First of all, this CD is not to be confused with the "Very Best Of Albert King" available on Rhino. That compilation features Albert at every stage of his career, King Records, Coun-tree, Stax and Tomato periods have an example on the disc. This disc is ONLY Stax cuts which are considered by most Albert lovers to be his best and most creative work. And we are talking here about the entire Stax years 1966-1975. All of King's Stax albums are represented here except his Elvis Presley tribute LP "King Does The King's Things".
This CD has all the single versions of King's most famous tunes. A few are missing such as "Personal Manager" where they cut out his famous solo, so it's just as well it's left out! In the 1960s, before computers in music, songs were edited in various ways and remixed. The versions of these tunes are classic! (I am not sure everyone will know this and that's why I'm submitting this review!). Previously many of these sides, including the very rare classic, "Left Hand Woman" were only available in the UK. The main compilation was "Blues For You" (1995)and it had many of these tunes on it. BUT this has more as you will see!
When Stax signed Albert King in 1965 they didn't know what to do with him. Stax was a Soul label and was forging ahead as an independent label (as Chess had done in the 1950s and early 1960s for Blues). They got him to play his stuff with more modern and then up-to-date grooves and Albert took the Blues to a new place. This CD celebrates Albert's contribution to American and World music.
As another reviewer has said at Amazon "the Blues is not meant to be played in 2-3 minutes". This is so true, it needs time to develop and let its heart and soul out. This is why Albert's best work is on his many live albums. However, this is the music business and its meant to make money. Based on this the engineers cut most of Albert's single songs down, sometimes ridiculously so, like "Personal Manager".
However, this is still a classic, interesting and overall, rare collection. If you are an Albert King fan you should have it. If you are new to Blues or Albert, it is still a good item to have. The tracks are selected from Albert's LP material and are in order of their release.
"Laundromat Blues" (1966) is Albert King's first Stax recording. He did it the same day as the classic instrumental "Overall Junction". This track was recorded live in the studio (which was an old Cinema) in one take. Albert, who was illiterate at the time had to memorize the lyrics and it caused troubles but gave his music an honest edge. In this tune we get the first dose of his incredible guitar style. Here he does fantastic double stop bends and string harmonics. This is the only studio recording he ever does this in too. OK, in the single version, which peaked at #29 in the R&B charts, the editors cut out the last part of his solo, where he goes up to the 5 chord (this tune is in Bb) and does several wild bends. This was to cut the time of the tune down a few seconds for the radio. It is interesting and this version has never been heard anywhere since 1966 on the radio. This tune was written by Indiana based writer Sandy Jones and it was the first pure blues tune for Stax. Sandy also wrote the deeply moving "Walking The Back Streets and Crying" that was a hit for Little Milton and covered by Albert on "I Wanna Get Funky" (1973).
Last year Stax released "Stax Profiles" which gave us a couple of rare offerings such as the "In Session" complete version of "Born Under A Bad Sign" with SRV. In this CD we get the extremely rare remix version of "Oh Pretty Woman" (1966). This is not the album version. Albert does a similar solo and all new fills. It's great, especially at the end. It is fantastic, very rare and something again not heard before in all other releases-even in Japan and Europe. This tune is one of Albert's most famous but never hit the hot 100.
"Crosscut Saw" (1966), another cut from the "Bad Sign" LP, got up to #34 in the R&B charts. This is the original tune, but in the original the tape was damaged and they wanted it to get out quickly to be sold. The vocal always was buried in the mix due to the poor tape. This version has been enhanced and remixed and sounds awesome.
"Born Under A Bad Sign" (1967) perhaps Albert's most famous tune was done with Booker T and the MGs. They recorded the backing track and it was so good Albert merely plugged in and played along. This is the original but remixed. It hit #49 on the R&B hot 100. This tune was meant to be a trendy contemporary tune linking astrology with the blues according to the Jones/Bell Stax writing team (like the "Age of Aquarius" at the time) but nobody really got it. They just loved Albert!
The next tune "Cold Feet"(1967) is a great example of Albert King's Talking Blues (the original Rap) ability and he was one of the best. This tune is from Atlantic Records issue of "King Of The Blues Guitar". This was Atlantic's clever distribution deal to share recording and royalties with Stax. Well this was the thing that lead to Stax's demise in the 1970s. This tune did very well peaking at #20 on the R&B and was one of Albert's few crossover hits (#67 Pop). The tune was written by Albert and the great drummer Al Jackson Jr.
(I Love) Lucy (1968)is a humourous blues written by the Bell/Jones Stax house writing team about his guitar "Lucy" (yes Albert tried to copy BB a bit, but never in playing). This song is fun; "all the fellas wanted to rub the back of her neck" and with the MGs backing it is fabulous. The very end of the tune when King exclaims "That's why I love Lucy" is some of his best and most influential playing. Listen to those micro-tone bends, they are classic!
"Blues Power"(1968)is from the album of the same name. It is the most curious single of them all. The original, with its dictionary of AK licks, was ten minutes long. Here it is cut to three minutes. Enough said. So it becomes a rap at the Fillmore West. This version was until now only available in Europe.
"Drowning On Dry Land"(1969) where Albert cries "My nose are in the sand" is from the LP "Years Gone By", Albert's first intentional LP ever (others were singles compilations). This is Part 1 of the tune. On the LP Part 2 is the instrumental. This single did not chart. Many people have done it including soul singer O.V. Wright and Buddy Guy.
"Tupelo (Part1)" and "Water" are two rare singles from the Jammed Together LP(1969) with Albert, Roebuck "Pop" Staples and guitar hero Steve Cropper. This album was probably a response to the highly successful "Super Session" LP which was out at the time. However, neither of these singles charted but they are interesting. "Tupelo" was written by John Lee Hooker has Pop singing and AK playing lead. Albert's solo is where they fade out! "Water" is a pop song written by Steve Cropper and Eddie "Knock on Wood" Floyd and sung by Steve. Very rare.
"Wrapped Up In Love Again" (1969) is a VERY rare single (Stax 0058). It is featured as the opening track of the Years Gone By LP but this is a different version, not a remix. It is very cool but did not chart. I believe someone had a copy of this single in England and transferred it to digital in the mid 1990s (the UK Stax issue of "Blues For You" has photos in it of this 45RPM record and the "Blues Power" one as well and said that they were from "the producer's collection").
"Can't You See What You're Doing To Me" (1970) is an Albert penned and produced number with the Bar-Kays. The bass line is fantastic. This tune was only ever a single and peaked at #50 in the R&B charts. Albert's solos are very well played and he uses many overbends, which he did not do a lot. Great control, tension and release.
"Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven" (1971) was written by Don Nix who also wrote Freddie King's and The Eagles "I'm Goin Down". This is from the very underrated "Lovejoy" LP in the middle of King's Stax period. This tune has great playing and lyrics "everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die!" However, the great ending to this tune is cut off in the fade out. It was recorded in Alabama under some more of Atlantic Records shifty work.
"Angel Of Mercy" (1972), "I'll Play The Blues For You" (1972)and "Breaking Up Somebody's Home" (1972) are all from King's most creative LP "I'll Play The Blues For You". "Mercy", one of the finest minor key blues ever written (and composer Homer Banks recently died) has some of King's finest string bending, he even opens the tune with pre-bends (ghost bends), a first in blues. However, the tune did not chart. "I'll Play The Blues For You" written by Jerry Beach, features great changes and playing, but the single is, like "Drowning", only Part One of the tune. It hit #31 on the R&B chart and also became a favourite on American FM radio. "Breaking Up" is a cover of an Ann Peebles tune. This song was also written by the talented Al Jackson Jr. This tune peaked at #35 on the R&B chart. This version is VERY rare and again from a copy in Europe.
"Playing On Me" (1973), "That's What The Blues Is All About" (1973) and "Flat Tire" (1974) are from the last Stax Album King did (the rest were off cuts and singles and so on) entitled "I Wanna Get Funky" (1973)."Playing" is a Mack Rice tune. Rice was in the Falcons with Wilson Pickett and wrote the classic "Mustang Sally". In the single version a louder Tambourine is added in the second half of the tune-maybe for danceablity. It is also a different version from the LP. It did not chart. "Blues Is All About" is Albert's most successful single (next to his first for King Records "Don't Throw Your Love On Me So Strong") peaking at # 15 in the R&B charts. It's a cool almost pop-soul blues and I always wondered if he did the whistling in it (he did, he does it live on Tomato/Utopia "Albert Live")
"Flat Tire" (1974) is Albert's own composition and he does this with a big band and includes Rap, Blues and background singers. He even has the Memphis Symphony on it. However, this single version never made the charts. It was released six months after the album came out.
The final tune is, like "Oh, Pretty Woman", very, very rare. It is the single version (with different playing, not just an edited remix) of the remake of "Crosscut Saw" (1974). I have always thought this one of Albert's very best tracks with the master Al Jackson on drums and the Bar-Kays. This version was only ever released on CD in the initial European compilation "Blues For You" done by Stax in the UK (1994) and out-of-print since about 1995. The newer version of this title had many of the tunes in the set. It is only 2:48 but very interesting. The original was over seven minutes. This was Albert's final single for the dying Stax Records and it failed to chart. But it's great and interesting to hear.
That's the collection. Rare singles, remixes and edited versions. If you are an Albert King fan you deserve a listen. Albert King's contribution to Blues was to knock down barriers between gospel, soul, blues, rock and R&B. He did this without ever compromising his playing style. An amazing effort from an amazing guitarist.
Cant go wrong.......
Clinton C. Condra | Phoenix, Az. USA | 06/15/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have become a huge fan of the Blues scene over the past 2 years and this was my first purchase of and Albert King album. Since I bought it I have had a hard time taking it out of my CD player! I would recomend this if you are not looking for the "old", "twangy", type blues. It is one of those that makes you wanna shake your booty out on the dance floor! Hope everyone enjoys it!"
searcher | USA | 04/28/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I know there are a lot of good blues artists but Albert King puts together his singer and playing and his style like no one else and this CD has some of his best. I was not able to find one CD with every thing i like so I got both very best of Albert King and I still had to down load a few MP3's to get everything i want and now I am cruisin and grovin to the absolute best of Albert King."