The Definitive Albert King On Stax features a total of thirty-four tracks on two discs, with music from 1961 through 1975. This release includes several Albert King original compositions, as well as some of his most interesting covers, including songs by The Rolling Stones and Taj Mahal. Albert King's blues certainly have a rock influence, made obvious by the inclusion of his cover of "Hound Dog."
But also take a look at some of the musicians who play with him: Booker T. Jones, Steve Cropper, Donald "Duck" Dunn" and Al Jackson, Jr. who are all known for their work as Booker T. And The MGs. Willie Hall is known for his work with Isaac Hayes and The Blues Brothers. Albert King surrounds himself with musicians who are comfortable in a variety of genres, and he uses that to his best advantage. (By the way, Steve Cropper actually sings on "Water," a song he co-wrote the song with Eddie Floyd.)
This collection features two live tracks, one on each CD, and also two versions of "Crosscut Saw," also one on each CD, recorded nearly a decade apart.
"Don't Throw Your Love On Me So Strong"
From that very first note of the first track on the first CD, you know you're in the hands of a master. And you know you're going to have some fun with this album. The blues are designed to lift your spirits, and Albert King is an expert at doing just that. He is also one of the best blues electric guitarists. "Don't Throw Your Love On Me So Strong" is an original song, written by Albert King, and features lines like, "Your love is like a faucet/You can turn it off and on." And that's Ike Turner on piano. This song was recorded in 1961, and released as a single.
"Laundromat Blues" and several other tracks on the first disc feature Steve Cropper on guitar and Donald "Duck" Dunn on bass. Fans of The Blues Brothers will recognize those names. Dunn provides a solid rhythm along with Al Jackson Jr. on drums. "Laundromat Blues" was written by Sandy Jones, and it reached #29 on the R&B chart.
In "Oh, Pretty Woman" you can hear a definite rock influence. Cropper and Dunn play on this track too. The interplay between the horns and King's guitar is wonderful.
Both "Laundromat Blues" and "Oh, Pretty Woman" were released as singles in 1966.
This collection features two versions of "Crosscut Saw." The first version, once again featuring Cropper and Dunn, was released as a single in 1966. It has a great groove. All of this early stuff from Albert King is blues you can dance to, infused with a rock and roll spirit.
A funkier version of this tune is included on the second disc, this one from 1974. Both versions were released as singles. "Crosscut Saw" was written by R.G. Ford.
"Born Under A Bad Sign"
This is the definitive version of "Born Under A Bad Sign," a song that has since become a blues staple, having been covered by Cream, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Jimi Hendrix, Robben Ford, and B.B. King & John Lee Hooker. Written by Booker T. Jones (who plays piano on this track) and William Bell, this song features lyrics like, "Born under a bad sign/Been down since I began to crawl/If it wasn't for bad luck, you know I wouldn't have no luck at all." The song also has a great driving rhythm.
"Cold Feet" was written by Albert King and Al Jackson. This tune has an excellent groove. It's heavy on the bass; that's Donald "Duck" Dunn again. Turn this one up; this is a seriously fun song. Its spoken lyrics have the feel of being improvised: "Hanging around the studio for three days in a row now/Thinking nobody can get a hit out of here but Sam & Dave." But it's the guitar that does the real singing on this track. And Al Jackson Jr. is just totally cool on the drums.
"(I Love) Lucy"
"(I Love) Lucy" is an unusual love song to Albert King's guitar. Before he reveals that Lucy is a guitar, not a woman, he sings lines like, "I remember the first time I took Lucy to a nightclub/All the fellows ran up/They wanted to run their fingers all up and down her neck." "(I Love) Lucy" was written by William Bell and Booker T. Jones, and was released as a single in 1968.
Albert King does an odd cover of "Hound Dog," the song made famous by Elvis Presley. I love Willie Hall's work on drums on this one. He gives the song a different feel. And the instrumental sections are excellent, taking the song in a completely new and wonderful direction. This version was originally released on Blues For Elvis: King Does The King's Things (1970).
"Can't You See What You're Doing To Me"
Wow, "Can't You See What You're Doing To Me" has such a great groove and full sound. It's like a giant blues meal that will feed and nourish you for weeks. This is one of the CD's best tracks. Written by Albert King, this song is guaranteed to bring a smile to your face, and will probably get you dancing as well. "Can't You See What You're Doing To Me" was released as a single in 1970.
"Honky Tonk Woman"
The first CD concludes with Albert King's cover of "Honky Tonk Woman." His voice is smoother than Mick Jagger's, so the song doesn't quite have that edge that late 1960s Stones tunes often have. But it's still a good cover.
"Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven"
The second disc opens with "Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven," a great example of easy going blues. Here is a taste of the lyrics: "Everybody wants to laugh/But nobody wants to cry/Everybody wants to go to heaven/But nobody wants to die." This track features some nice work on keyboard by John Gallie. "Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven" was written by Don Nix. It was released as a single in 1971.
"She Caught The Katy And Left Me A Mule To Ride"
"She Caught The Katy And Left Me A Mule To Ride" is just one of the coolest songs ever written, and Albert King's version is excellent, with a good, funky rhythm. His version was originally released on Lovejoy (1970). This song is pure fun. Written by Taj Mahal and James Rachel, this song has been covered by The Blues Brothers, Phish, Bonnie Raitt and Widespread Panic.
"Tell Me What True Love Is"
"Tell Me What True Love Is" is jazzy groovy R&B with a horn section (Clifford Solomon, Ernie Watts and Blue Mitchell). This song is joyous, brilliant, with a full band sound. Certainly not pure blues. But Albert King was so good at mixing genres and making it all sound so perfect, and making it all somehow fit into the blues structure. John Mayall plays organ, piano, 12-string guitar and harmonica on this track.
"Tell Me What True Love Is" was written by Albert King and John Mayall.
"Angel Of Mercy"
"Angel Of Mercy" is one of those blues tunes in which absolutely nothing is going right for the singer. These tunes are basically list songs, listing troubles. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. With Albert King, they always work. He sings, "Cut my lights off this morning/They set my furniture outdoors/I was listening to the weather man a while ago/And he said it's going to rain and snow/My daughter's got pneumonia/And my son is down with the flu."
In the chorus he sings, "Angel of mercy/Won't you please look down on me/Angel of mercy/A little mercy is all I need." Not too much to ask for. King's guitar work is bloody brilliant. "Angel Of Mercy" was released as a single in 1972.
"Breaking Up Somebody's Home"
"Breaking Up Somebody's Home" has a great bass line. There is certainly a touch of funk, in the bass line, in Albert's vocals, and in the horns. This song has such a cool groove, with some nice work on keyboard. And really it's kind of a mean song. He sings, "Got nowhere to turn to/Tired of being alone/I feel like breaking up somebody's home." He feels like stealing someone else's woman, causing some other poor bastard to be in the same situation. And yes, listening to him sing, you hope he's successful.
"That's What The Blues Is All About"
"That's What The Blues Is All About" was Albert King's biggest hit for Stax. Written by Bobby Patterson and Jerry Strickland, this song reached #15 on the R&B chart. Ah yes, the blues, where your mailbox is full of bills and even your dog turns his back on you. This song too has funk added to the rhythm. Albert sings, "It's a hard pill to swallow/When you find out what the blues is all about." Sure, but not if Albert King is the one administering the medicine.
"Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin'"
As most of you are well aware, there is very little in the way of enjoyable Christmas music. Well, add Albert King's "Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin'" to that short list of good Christmas songs. Apart from the name "Santa Claus" and the persistent bells shaking in the background, there isn't much to designate this song as a Christmas tune. It was released as a single in 1975.
"Dust My Broom"
This excellent collection concludes with a fun and lively version of that blues classic "Dust My Broom," written by Elmore James. It features a steady blues rhythm and some nice stuff on piano by Tony Llorens, and a cool solo by Steve Douglas on sax. This song was originally released on I'm In A Phone Booth, Baby (1984).
CD Track List
- Don't Throw Your Love On Me So Strong
- Laundromat Blues
- Oh, Pretty Woman
- Crosscut Saw
- Born Under A Bad Sign
- Cold Feet
- (I Love) Lucy
- Blues Power (live)
- Killing Floor
- The Sky Is Crying
- Drowning On Dry Land
- Tupelo (Pt. 1)
- Wrapped Up In Love Again
- Hound Dog
- Can't You See What You're Doing To Me
- Honky Tonk Woman
- Everybody Wants To Go To Haven
- She Caught The Katy And Left Me A Mule To Ride
- Tell Me What True Love Is
- Angel Of Mercy
- I'll Play The Blues For You (Pt. 1)
- Breaking Up Somebody's Home
- Answer To The Laundromat Blues
- Match Box Blues (live at Wattstax)
- I Wanna Get Funky
- Playing On Me
- That's What The Blues Is All About
- Flat Tire
- Crosscut Saw (1974 Remake)
- Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin'
- Driving Wheel
- I'm Doing Fine
- Dust My Broom
Musicians appearing on this release include Albert King on guitar and vocals; Ike Turner on piano; Booker T. Jones on piano; Marvel Thomas on piano and organ; John Gallie on keyboards; Barry Beckett on keyboards; Tony Llorens on acoustic piano; John Mayall on organ, piano, 12-string guitar and harmonica; Steve Cropper on guitar and vocals; Pop Staples on guitar and vocals; Michael Toles on guitar; Lee King on guitar; Jesse Edwin Davis on rhythm guitar; Tippy Armstrong on rhythm guitar; Wayne Perkins on rhythm guitar; Donald "Duck" Dunn on bass; David Hood on bass; Larry Taylor on bass; Gus Thornton on bass; Al Jackson Jr. on drums; Willie Hall on drums; Jim Keltner on drums; Roger Hawkins on drums; Ron Selico on drums; Michael Llorens on drums; Sandy Konikoff on percussion; Wayne Jackson on trumpet; Andrew Love on tenor saxophone; Ernie Watts on tenor saxophone; Clifford Solomon on alto and tenor saxophones; Steve Douglas on tenor and baritone saxophones; Blue Mitchell on trumpet; and Cal Lewiston on trumpet.
The Definitive Albert King On Stax was released on April 5, 2011 by Concord Music Group. Other titles in this Definitive series include The Definitive Bill Evans On Riverside And Fantasy and The Definitive Miles Davis On Prestige, both also released on April 5th. Last year, Concord Music Group released The Definitive Dave Brubeck On Fantasy, Concord Jazz, And Telarc.
Last year also saw the release of Albert King With Stevie Ray Vaughan: In Session DVD/CD. The DVD includes a great version of "Born Under A Bad Sign." Albert King died in 1992, from a heart attack.