Albert King on Stax - JazzWax

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April 20, 2011


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Dave James

I'm not sure that the place to get to know Albert King is by means of his studio recordings. If you know what King is capable of in a live context, I think you'll find the studio material a bit confining. If you're interested in listening to a brilliant blues guitarist ply his trade and at the same time enjoy how he relates to a receptive audience, I'd highly recommend Live Wire/Blues Power, a set Stax recorded at the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco in 1968. It's not cluttered up by horns, just Albert and a small combo fronted by a Hammond B-3. The blues doesn't get much better than this.


Great Albert,Great Flying V!

Tom Reney

Your post on Albert King reminded me of my first enounter with his music. A boyhood acquaintance joined a record club when we were in junior high school and his initial membership agreement netted him about 10 LP's, one of which was Albert's first Stax release Born Under a Bad Sign. He may have ordered it by mistake to begin with, but in any case he didn't dig it, and he offered it to me with this memorable assumption: "I think this is the kind of music you like."

It was indeed. B.B. King and Muddy Waters and Paul Butterfield were already on my turntable, and then came Albert with a sound that connected even more deeply to the soul music that I'd been digging since James Brown and Otis Redding came blasting through the local AM stations of my youth.
Albert may have been hemmed in a bit by the Stax production style, but those mid-Sixties sides are stunning gems of their own kind and were hugely influential on the course of modern blues.

Later I discovered Albert's earlier work for King and Bobbin, and the eight sides he made for Chess that appeared on the LP Door to Door. There you'll find Albert's masterful take on the Howlin' Wolf classic, Howlin' for My Darlin'.

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  • Marc Myers writes regularly for The Wall Street Journal and is author of "Anatomy of a Song" (Grove) and "Why Jazz Happened." Founded in 2007, JazzWax is a two-time winner of the Jazz Journalists Association's best blog award.

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