Tuesday, May 31, 2011

499: Albert King - Born Under A Bad Sign

Original Release Year: 1967
Label: Stax

Albert King is someone I had never heard of.  I read up on him, saw that he was an influential blues guitarist, and figured that since MOG didn't have this record, I'd go ahead and purchase the vinyl version.  The copy I purchased is the 1998 reissue on the Sundazed label, and includes two bonus tracks not available on the original record.

King is notable for his style of playing, which involves playing a right-handed guitar left handed (this, of course, sounds very confusing).  Born Under A Bad Sign was considered to have modernized blues, and had a significant influence on the next generation of guitarists.

As far as the music, I really like the playing.  Albert didn't have a voice as powerful as, say, Buddy Guy, but it is still soulful.  The classic bass lines and horn and wind arrangements provide a nice backdrop for King's emotive lead guitar parts, which speak almost as clearly as his voice.  The solos take up just the amount of space; the notes aren't all crammed in there like you sometimes hear when some very technically skilled guitarists play.  In "I Almost Lost My Mind," we are even treated to flute leads during the vocal parts, instead of the standard guitar.

"Personal Manager" contains one of the most emotive guitar solos I've heard in a long time.  This song might as well be a clinic on soloing; I'd strongly recommend listening to this if you're interested in soloing (in any instrument).

King even has enough good taste to put down the guitar completely for his beautiful, somewhat jazzy rendition of Ray Noble's "The Very Thought of You."  Not only does giving the saxophone the lead suit the song well, but it also demonstrates a little diversity.

I'm not particularly educated about blues in general... In fact, I know almost nothing about blues... But I can say, this is some of the best blues I've heard.  It might be there's a whole assortment of better blues albums out there, but at this juncture, I'd say it is a welcome addition to my record collection.

Here's a video of Albert playing "Born Under A Bad Sign." I can't tell for sure, but it looks like he's even playing with an injured finger:


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