NEW YORK: King Does The King's Thing - by J. Blake

Posted on 7/28/2009 by J. Blake

So far I’ve written a piece about B.B. as well as a piece about Freddie, so it is only fair that Albert gets his due.

He was born Albert Nelson on a cotton plantation in Indianola, Mississippi and though he started his music career as a drummer, the large (in stature) left-hander found his fame and legendary blues status as a guitarist (playing an upside-down right-handed Gibson Flying V for the majority of his career). He made his first recordings in 1953 for Parrot Records in Chicago and though some of his subsequent albums managed to find minor hit status, it wasn’t until 1966 when he signed with Stax Records and recorded the album Born Under A Bad Sign (backed by Booker T. & the M.G.’s), followed by a run of successful concert dates at Bill Graham’s Fillmore West, that Albert King found his audience.

Like the ‘Kings’ that I’ve previously written about, Albert’s impact is profound. Everyone from Hendrix and Clapton to Gary Moore and Stevie Ray Vaughan as well his contemporaries Albert Collins and Otis Rush have cited him as an influence. Granted, last week I made similar claims about Freddie King, and though Freddie is probably my personal favorite bluesman of all-time and one of the biggest influences of my playing, it is hard to deny Albert the credit that he has certainly earned. In a recent special edition of Guitar One Magazine titled Blues Legends (on stands now), writer Alan Paul recites an amusing piece of lore. “Blues legend has it that Mike Bloomfield once engaged Jimi Hendrix in a cutting contest before thousands of screaming fans. Hendrix drew first and unleashed a soaring, cosmic blues attack. As Bloomfield stood transfixed in awe, struggling to plot a response to Hendrix’s brilliant fury, one thought ran like a mantra through his mind: ‘I wish I were Albert King…I wish I were Albert King…’”

Albert King’s 1967 album Born Under A Bad Sign has certainly achieved its rightful place as one of the best blues albums of all-time. His follow up LIVE WIRE/BLUES POWER lives up to its title as a powerhouse of blues intensity, and though those albums are among my favorites, his tribute to a different ‘King’ has a special place in my heart. In 1970 Stax Records released BLUES FOR ELVIS: KING DOES THE KING'S THING. It is certainly not his strongest work, but Albert King’s 9 track (36 minute 41 second) tribute to Elvis is a fun album that finds the left-handed bluesman exploring classic Presley standards through atypical musical arrangements that include the classic Albert (Crosscut Saw-style) rumba, funk, swing and even gospel.

His guitar-work on the album is tastefully executed and classically “Albert”. The band (which features a booming horn section and a rhythm section made up of veterans from both The M.G.’s and The Bar-Kays) is phenomenally tight and though the band swings nicely on a number of tunes, the album’s real gems are the tracks in which the band lays down some tasty 1970 funk. The album is short, but entirely enjoyable; definite highlights include Blue Suede Shoes, Heartbreak Hotel, That’s All Right (With Mama) and my personal favorite…Jailhouse Rock (which features some excellent horn solos and Albert leads).

It is not among his most popular albums and maybe not even among his best, but as stated earlier it is a lot of fun, with some interesting arrangements and a healthy dose of funky blues energy. So as always, if you’ve never heard it, what are you waiting for? If you have, it’s worth another listen.

Here is a little treat:

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Copyright © 2009 - J. Blake. All Rights Reserved


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