Albert King cut his first blues for Parrot records in 1952 and has seen ups and downs in the nearly twenty years that followed, as he pursued the career of an urban bluesman. In succeeding years he enjoyed periods of popularity when he recorded for Bobbin and King, but it wasn’t until he came to Stax in the mid-Sixties that his career jumped. His initial 45 release (“Laundromat Blues” “Overall Junction”) proved his mettle and further releases (including his now classic Blues Power album) allowed him to make the move into the Fillmore and white audience “success” on the coattails of Butterfield and Mayall. His artistic capabilities, however, seemed to have dried up with the late-Sixties release of King Sings King which was a dismal failure, as King attempted to subvert early Presley hits into his Born Under A Bad Sign (King’s first and most brilliant Stax album) format. With this, most recent, release Albert King recaptures all that he abandoned.
From the opening doom-laden guitar intro into “Honky Tonk Woman” through King’s blues-ballad treatment of “Like A Road Leading Home” he convinces, both vocally and musically, that the fire is still there. All that was needed was material and a producer to rekindle it and Don Nix has done a fine job on both counts. Other outstanding tunes include the “autobiographical” “Bay Area Blues,” a gruff, slide-guitar reshaping of Taj Mahal’s “She Caught the Katy and Left Me A Mule To Ride,” and the moralistic “Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven,” the latter containing a brilliant, high-register guitar solo. Speaking of guitar-work, check out King’s rave-up fury on the uptempo “Going Back To luka,” that flows, with a “Mystery Train” beat, and galvanizes the essence of King’s approach to the blues. An approach that, I trust, will result in more albums like this in the near future.