"If you don't dig the blues you got a hole in your soul" sayeth King. Born in Indianola, MS, on April 25 1923. as Albert Nelson. He taught himself how to play guitar when he was a child, building his own instrument out of a cigar box. King moved to Gary, IN, in 1953, where he joined a band that also featured Jimmy Reed but King actually played drums in the group. At this time, he adopted the name Albert King and claimed to be related to B.B. King. Eventually King met Willie Dixon who helped him record for Parrot Records. Five songs were recorded during the session and only one single, "Be On Your Merry Way" / "Bad Luck Blues," was released. In 1956, Albert moved to St. Louis, where he initially sat in with local bands. By 1958, Albert was quite popular in St. Louis, which led to a contract with the fledgling Bobbin Records in the summer of 1959. King's records for Bobbin sold well in the St. Louis area, enough so that King Records leased the "Don't Throw Your Love On Me So Strong" single from the smaller label. When the single was released nationally late in 1961, it became a hit, reaching number 14 on the R&B charts. King Records continued to lease more material from Bobbin -- including a full album, "Big Blues", which was released in 1963 -- but nothing else approached the initial success of "Don't Throw Your Love on Me So Strong." Bobbin also leased material to Chess, which appeared in the late '60s.
Albert King left Bobbin in late 1962 and recorded one session for King Records in the spring of 1963 without a hit. Within a year, he cut four songs for the local St. Louis independent label Coun-Tree. But by 1966 King signed with Stax Records where he finally broke out. With Booker T & The MGs on sessions the soul underpinning gave King crossover appeal, as evidenced by his R&B chart hits -- "Laundromat Blues" (1966) and "Cross Cut Saw" (1967) both went Top 40, while "Born Under a Bad Sign" (1967) charted in the Top 50. Furthermore, King's style was "borrowed" by several rock & roll players, most notably Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton, who copied Albert's "Personal Manager" guitar solo on the Cream song, "Strange Brew." Albert King's first album for Stax, 1967's "Born Under A Bad Sign", was a collection of his singles for the label and became one of the most popular and influential blues albums of the late '60s. His star continued to rise with the terrific live record "Live Wire/Blues Power", which remains today one of King's defining moments. "Years Gone By" dropped the following year sounding like every bit the sequel to "Born Under A Bad Sign" it should've been. Yet this was followed by an erratic couple years that included an odd tribute to Elvis Presley ("King Does The King's Things"), a tedious mostly-instrumental collaboration with Pops Staples and Steve Cropper ("Jammed Together") and a stiff LP produced by Don Nix ("Lovejoy"). King rebounded with the masterpiece "I'll Play The Blues For You" featuring members of Booker T & The MGs and the followup "I Wanna Get Funky". R & B chart hits like "I'll Play The Blues For You", "Breaking Up Somebody's Home", "Answer To The Laundromat Blues" & "That's What The Blues Is All About" come from these two records.
King left Stax in 1974 for Tomato Records for the somewhat successful "Truckload Of Lovin", which produced an R & B hit with Sir Mack Rice's "Cadillac Assembly Line". The quality of King's material began declining rapidly during this discofied period and subsequent albums including the Allen Toussaint produced "New Orleans Heat" in 1977 are considered his weakest. Following the 1977 release of "The Pinch", a collection of unreleased material from the Stax vault, King "retired" from the studio for several years, concentrating on his legendary live performances. But the titan was back in the studio in 1983 on the Stax-related label Fantasy for a pair of solid LPs in his classic Soul/Blues style ("San Francisco '83" & "I'm In A Phone Booth Baby") but he seemed to retire from recording again, occasionally guesting on albums like Gary Moore's "Still Called The Blues" before finally getting back in the studio and recording the obscure European effort "Red House" in 1992. King died in that same year. Countless live albums and compilations have naturally appeared since then, further proving he was one of the greatest of the modern electric Blues artists.
Of the major and noteworthy releases, excluding countless inferior compilations. If it ain't listed here don't bother!
"The Big Blues" (King 1962)
1. Let's Have a Natural Ball
*** First LP consists of early King singles like the #15 smash "Don't Throw Your Love On Me So Strong". More recent compilations have made this obsolete. See "The Complete King/Bobbin Recordings"
"Born Under A Bad Sign" (Stax 1967)
1. Born Under a Bad Sign
***** One of the classic blues LPs of the 60s is flawless. Each track is special making this feel like a "greatest hits" collection. In a sense it is- as much of the material was released as singles prior to the album's release. King's signature sound of fat, pinched guitar lines and smokey singing backed by tough rhythm (Booker T & The MGs) is born. Of the many highlights we have "Born Under A Bad Sign" (#49 R & B), "Laundromat Blues" (#29 R & B), "Crosscut Saw" (#34 R & B), "The Hunter", "Oh Pretty Woman" & "Personal Manager" all on one album. Even better the set was remastered on CD in 2002.
"Live Wire/Blues Power" (Stax 1968)
1. Watermelon Man
****1/2 Of the many many Albert live albums released this short 6 song set still remains one of the best. King's guitar is on fire in San Francisco at the Filmore Auditorium on BB King's "Please Love Me", Herbie Hancock's "Watermelon Man" and the two major slow blues highlights ("Blues Power" & "Blues At Sunrise"). Essential Albert.
"Years Gone By" (Stax 1969)
1. Wrapped up in Love Again
**** A solid sequel of sorts to "Bad Sign" as it contains a similar sound and spirit thanks to members of Booker T & The MGs and production by Al Jackson Jr.. This time King expertly covers Howlin' Wolf's "Killing Floor", Little Milton's "Lonely Man" & Elmore James' "The Sky Is Crying". He also redoes his smash "You Threw Your Love On Me Too Strong" and adds the strong piledriving original "Wrapped Up In Love Again".
"Blues For Elvis: King Does The King's Things" (Stax 1970)
1. Hound Dog
*** Odd career move. Perhaps it was the easiest way to get product out there in between real King albums? This "tribute" album to songs of Elvis Presley is surprisingly good- mostly because King's sound is irreducible thus this is an Albert King album after all. "Blue Suede Shoes" sounds like a cousin to "Oh Pretty Woman". Each performance is likable but "Hound Dog" and "All Shook Up" rank the highest. Not just for completists and Presley fanatics.
Steve Cropper Pops Staples Albert King "Jammed Together" (Stax 1971)
Studio jam session between King, Steve Cropper and Pops Staples. Set is mostly instrumental except for each taking 1 turn at the mic.
1. What'D I Say
**1/2 Studio jam session between King, Steve Cropper and Pops Staples is fine but pointless. Set is mostly instrumental except for each taking 1 turn at the mic. Albert phones in Ray Charles' standard "What'd I Say". Lots of dandy guitarwork from King and Cropper but this is for completists only.
"Lovejoy" (Stax 1971)
1. Honky Tonk Women
*** Suffering somewhat from a lumbering blues-rock production ("Bay Area Blues", "Corinna Corinna"), this Don Nix-produced set features a take on the Stones' "Honky Tonk Woman" & Taj Mahal's "She Caught The Katy". Fairing better is King's marvelous reading of Nix's own "Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven" & thumping "For The Love Of A Woman".
"I'll PLay The Blues For You" (Stax 1972)
1. I'll Play the Blues for You, Pts. 1 - 2
***** One of the best if not the best soul blues album of the past 33 years. This is soul blues, that is soul + blues. King is backed by members of the Bar Kays, Isaac Hayes Movement and the Memphis Horns but it's King's smokey vocals and axework that glides forcefully through the deep funkified soul- heavy on the bass and sweet horns. "I'll Play The Blues For You Pts. 1 & 2"- all 7-plus minutes of it is immaculate and the song became his calling card from that moment on. "When you're down and out and you feel real hurt/Come on over to the place where I work/All your loneliness I'm gonna sooth/I'll play the blues for you." You can just picture King in a small hole in the wall as blue as you can get. No disrespect to Ann Peebles but Albert's "Breaking Up Somebody's Home" is matchless. "Little Brother (Make A Way)", an earnest motivation to black folk to proudly persevere after all they've been through- to take up the torch and keep fighting ("Little brother make a way/Take it further"). "Answer To The Laundromat Blues" contains a patented King monologue. The men are now wise to the women meeting their men at the "local laundromat". The live "I'll Be Doggone" is hot as a grease fire with some of King's best solos on record. "Angel Of Mercy" is what the blues is all about. Perfect!
"I Wanna Get Funky" (Stax 1974)
1. I Wanna Get Funky
**** Worthy follow up is another Memphis soul blues gem with Albert at the peak of his powers. The shuffle-bumping "That's What The Blues Is All About" reached #15 on the R & B charts. "I Can't Hear Nothing But The Blues" is as great as the title suggests. He tackles Sir Mack Rice's "Playing On Me" and Eddie Floyd's ""Til My Back Ain't Got No Bone" and even updates his hit "Crosscut Saw" replete with a new rhythm. Interestingly about halfway into the jam he coaxes the band to do it like they did it back in the 60s for a couple measures. "Travellin' Man" is a King original. His "Walking The Back Streets And Crying" rivals Little Milton Campbell's. His last undeniably great studio album.
King/Hamilton/Milton "Montreux Festival" (Stax 1974)
1. In View
**1/2 Short album contains one 12 minute jazz piece by Chico Hamilton, two cuts by Little Milton and three by King. All performances from the Montreux Jazz Festival are first rate but there's just not enough of it to recommend this as a purchase. Especially since two of the King tracks ("Stormy Monday" & "For The Love Of A Woman") appeared on later King live albums. King collectors may note that the great "Don't Make No Sense" (which includes a funny jab at Isaac Hayes) can only be found here.
"Truckload Of Lovin'" (Tomato 1975)
1. Cold Women With Warm Hearts
***King leaves Stax for Tomato Records for this funkified blues effort. Sir Mack Rice's "Cadillac Assembly Line" (a Top 40 R & B hit) & "Cold Women With Warm Hearts" are the obvious highpoints on this uneven collection. "Gonna Make It Somehow" is ruined by annoying female backups and the pop "Hold Hands With One Another" just isn't suited to tough Albert King. Another Rice number, the clumsy "Sensation Communication, Together", also charted low on the R & B Charts.
"Albert" (Tomato 1976)
1. Guitar Man
** Disco production touches nearly ruin this outing. The propulsive disco beat works on "Guitar Man" but is embarrassing on the subpar "Change Of Pace" and "Running Out Of Steam". Two Willie Dixon numbers are fattened up here ("I'm Ready" & "My Babe") with thick bass and horns for no good reason. Only "Ain't Nothing I Can Do" ranks with classic Albert.
"Travelin' To California" (King 1976)
King Records sides. Tracklist: Travelin' to california / What can I do to change your mind / I get evil / Had I told you like it was / This morning / I walked all night long / Don't throw you love on me so strong / Let's have a natural ball/ I've made nights by myself/ This funny feeling/ Ooh-ee baby/ Dyna flow
"Live" (Utopia/Tomato 1977)
1. Watermelon Man
***1/2 Live album cut at the 1975 Montreux Jazz Festival during his discofied funk blues period contains the great slow blues "I'm Gonna Call You Soon As The Sun Go Down" and "Blues At Sunrise". King also debuts a derivative original that became a concert staple ("Matchbox Blues"). The rest of the set contains good versions of some of his Stax hits ("I'll Play The Blues For You", "That's What The Blues Is All About"). On the LP there's also a lengthy guitar jam with Rory Gallagher called "Blues In A Flat" (the full set was finally released on two discs as "Blues From The Road").
"King Albert" (Tomato 1977)
1. Love Shock
*** Although still overproduced this set benefits from a better batch of songs like the funky blues "Chump Change" & "You Upset Me Baby". The best moments come via the humorous midtempo "Call My Job" and slow churning "Good Time Charlie".
"The Pinch" aka "The Blues Don't Change" (Stax 1977, 1992)
1. Blues Don't Change
*** Stax takes the opportunity between Tomato albums to release this collection of material recorded in 1973 and 1974. "The Pinch Paid Off Pts. 1 & 2" would have fit nicely on "I Wanna Get Funky". 3 more fine Sir Mack Rice cuts grace this platter (the best being "The Blues Don't Change" and "Firing Line"). There's also a funky update of "Oh, Pretty Woman" and a thoughtful slow funk blues ("I'm Doing Fine"). When the LP was released on CD in 1992 it was re-titled "The Blues Don't Change".
Albert King John Lee Hooker "I'll Play The Blues For You" (Stax 1977)
1. Born Under a Bad Sign
**1/2 Misleading package (they don't perform together). Recorded live in Chicago in 1977, this captures a brief set by each of these blues legends. Hooker's set is naturally heavy on the boogie with staples like "Boom Boom" & "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer" while King does good versions of "Born Under The Bad Sign" & the title track (erroneously titled "When You Down" here). Overall it feels like a thrown together hodgepodge.
"New Orleans Heat" (Tomato 1978)
1. Get Out of My Life Woman
**1/2 Allen Toussaint produces this mostly lukewarm set featuring new material and rehashed versions of King favorites. "Born Under A Bad Sign" suffers from shrill female backups while "The Very Thought Of You", "Flat Tire" and "Angel Of Mercy" are simply too similar yet still inferior to earlier versions. The keepers are the "Thrill Is Gone" rip called "The Feeling", Toussaint's "Get Out My Life Woman" and the funky "We All Wanna Boogie".
"Masterworks" (Atlantic 1982)
1.Personal manager/Cadillac assembly line/Chump change/Angel of mercy/The very thought of you/Call my job /Born under a bad sign /Truckload of loving /Rub my back /Laundromat Blues /Cold women with warm hearts/Kansas City/We all wanna boogie/Blues at sunrise/Good time Charlie/Crosscut saw/Ain't nothing you can do/As the years go passing by/
"Crosscut Saw: Albert King In San Francisco" (Fantasy/Stax 1983)
1. Honey Bee
*** King returns to the studio after an aborted retirement on this set originally titled "San Francisco '83". Here Albert finally does a studio version of "Matchbox Blues" and adds two decent originals (the brooding "Floodin' In California" and humorous "They Made The Queen Welcome"). The best cuts are "Ask Me No Questions" originally done by another King (B.B.) and the slow blues "I'm Gonna Move To The Outskirts Of Town". The CD reissue adds the bonus cuts "Crosscut Saw" & "Why You So Mean To Me
"I'm In A Phone Booth, Baby" (Fantasy/Stax 1984)
1. Phone Booth
**** One of King's better studio efforts has strong material like Robert Cray's "Phone Booth", Elmore James' classics "Dust My Broom" and "The Sky Is Crying" and Sir Mack Rice's "Firing Line". King's band is tight and Albert is in top form on this outing ripping vintage guitar fills and showing off that soulful, husky blues voice. Some might find the production a tad antiseptic but King still sounds tough.
"Laundromat Blues" (Edsel 1984)
1. Born Under a Bad
"The Lost Session" (Stax 1986)
1. She Won't Gimmie No Lovin'
*** As the title suggests this 1971 session was "lost" in that in remained unreleased until 1986. It is alleged that it was relegated to the Stax vault because it was too different from the Stax sound. Producer John Mayall himself says "It didn't sound like their stuff" and "they couldn't handle that". There's no denying this disc bares little resemblance to the soul blues and tight funk the label was putting out in the early 70s. Mayall wanted to try something different and came up with a sort of jazzy-blues fusion as played by a white British blues band backing a black blues powerhouse. The opening "She Won't Gimme No Lovin'" features a Ragtime-esque piano line over a loose shuffle-bump groove. "Stop Lying" benefits from a New Orleans-flavored organ by someone named "Kevin" (last name unknown). "Money Lovin' Woman" is almost loose jazz fusion with King delivering a monologue over the groove and punctuating the piece with guitar licks. "Sun Gone Down" in two takes is the most typical Albert King slow blues with the big man reaching into his arsenal and unleashing his signature licks. Overall the album feels more like a jam session rather than a labored studio project. All songs are credited to Albert and Mayall but are naturally derivative of other blues songs. Some critics panned "The Lost Session" but it seems to rank high with King fans.
"The Best Of" (Stax 1986)
1. I'll Play the Blues for You, Pts. 1 & 2
*** Should've been titled "Some Of The Best Of Albert King On Stax" as it contains nothing from "Born Under A Bad Sign" or anything before or after the period 1969-1974. Nevertheless it's a good sampler of some of King's best. You get the live blues masterpiece "Blues Power", plus "I'll Play The Blues For You", "That's What The Blues is All About", "Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven", "Angel Of Mercy" all on the same album.
"Blues At Sunrise" (Stax 1988)
1. Don't Burn Down the Bridge ('Cause You
Might Wanna Come Back Across)
**** Recorded at Albert King's appearance at the 1973 Montreux Jazz Festival, this is one of the better live albums out of the many. Three tracks from this festival appeared on the album "Montreux Festival" which also included cuts from Chico Hamilton and Little Milton. This album contains more from that festival and includes one repeat ("For The Love Of A Woman"). This is an irritating fact as the romp "Don't Make No Sense" and "Stormy Monday" could also have easily been added to this set. This quibble aside, there's great versions of songs appearing on many live King albums ("I'll Play The Blues For You", "Blues At Sunrise") plus songs rare to his live catalog ("I Believe To My Soul", "Roadhouse Blues") making this an essential purchase.
"Let's Have A Natural Ball" (Modern 1989)
1. I Walked All Night Long
"King Of The Blues Guitar" (Atlantic 1989)
1. Laundromat Blues
"Thursday Night In San Francisco" (Stax 1990)
***1/2 Recorded at the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco 1968 the same dates the material from Albert's classic "Live Wire/Blues Power" was taken. While that album culled the cream of the crop (or at least the freshest material King was performing) this set has plenty of highlights, like "Everyday I Have The Blues", "Drifting Blues" & "I'm Gonna Move To The Outskirts Of Town".
"Wednesday Night In San Francisco" (Stax 1990)
1. Watermelon Man
***1/2 Companion peace to "Thursday Night" and "Live Wire" for that matter, this set contains ripping versions of "Born Under A Bad Sign", "Personal Manager", "Got To Be Some Changes Made" & "Don't Throw Your Love One Me So Strong". It would be great if Stax complied all the material from this June1968 period onto a 2 or 3 disc remastered set. How about a "complete concert"???
Albert King Otis Rush "Door To Door" (MCA/Chess 1990)
Excellent compilation featuring King & Rush material recorded for Chess in the 60s. Albert's 8 tracks include three tracks from his 1953 Parrot period ("Merry Way", "Wild Women" & "Murder") while his Chess cuts include a take on Howlin' Wolf's "Howling For My Darling". Rush's tracks are better comprising gems like "So Close", "So Many Roads, So Many Trains" & the classic "All My Love (I Miss Loving)". Essential for fans of either.
1. Searchin' For a Woman
"Roadhouse Blues" (RSP 1991)
info needed on this compilation
Albert King/Little Milton "Chronicle" (Stax 1992)
1. Can't You See What You're Doing
*** Fine (but unnecessary) mini-compilation of prime Stax material for each artist is merely an advertisement to get newbies interested in either's rich Stax catalog. King's material includes biggies like "Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven", "Can't You See What You're Doing To Me" & "That's What The Blues Is All About". Milton's portion has the great "That's What Love Will Make You Do", "Tin Pan Alley", "Behind Closed Doors" & more.
"Red House" (Castle/Essential 1992)
**1/2 This is the very last studio album recorded by the late Blues titan. One of my motivations for writing this short review is my annoyance over how woefully inaccurate most info out there is on exactly what this actually is. If it's even listed at all it's usually listed as another live album or a compilation of previously-released tracks rather than the final album from the master. My research suggests it was only officially released in the United Kingdom in 1991 months before his fatal heart attack. It received almost no attention and quickly fell into obscurity. I'm the one that added it to his Albums Discography on Wikipedia but then some nitwit edited the page and moved it over to the "Compilations" section (as of today it's still listed incorrectly). Insert angry emoji here.Recorded both in Memphis, TN (produced by King and Gary Belz) and Los Angeles, CA (produced by Bruce Gary and Alan Douglas) this rare 9 song set includes songs new to the King canon ("Red House", "Bluesman", "If You Got It", "Stop", "When You Walk Out The Door", "Problems", 'Our Love Is Going To Win", "Trouble", "Don't Let Me Be Lonely"). The project was spear-headed by none other than the drummer for the New Wave band The Knack ("My Sharona") Bruce Gary! Finally something good to come out of that musical abomination. Following the disbandment of that (irksome) band Gary became an in demand session drummer and turned his attention to the Blues. In addition to King he (died in 2006) recorded with John Lee Hooker and along with Alan Douglas produced a series of archival releases on Jimi Hendrix, most notably Jimi Hendrix's "Blues" album (highly recommended).
"Red House" suffers overall from shrill synthesizer parts throughout that try and fail to be a proxy for horns. Adding insult to injury there is, in fact, live horns on "Our Love Is Going To Win" and "Trouble". Only budgeted for two tracks? In addition there's a sterile and distant studio sound to these recordings that dull King's normally razor-sharp, piercing guitar licks. Nevertheless this is Albert King and his talent overshadows the misgivings. The highlight by far is the title track, a Hendrix original, a rolling midtempo shuffle with a confident King vocal and his trademark bag of tricks courtesy of his "guit-fiddle" named Lucy. Pity the lame keyboard fills couldn't have been excised. And, unfortunately, the rhythm section is stiff and lazy while the mix is muddy. It also sounds like King's mic was too "hot" and clipping, resulting in some distortion. Ever since I've owned this album I've fantasized of someone taking these sessions, stripping away all accompaniment and re-recording new backing tracks behind King's vocals and guitar.
King gets his croon on for James Taylor's "Don't Let Me Be Lonely". Those familiar with King know he possessed a husky, soulful voice that shined on slow numbers like "The Very Thought Of You" from years passed. He nails this one. The track also features an uncredited sax solo.
Another highlight is "Bluesman", which no doubt draws it's lyrical inspiration from Willie Dixon/Muddy Waters. "On the night I was born my poor mother cried/She said Lord have mercy on this manchild/The devil screamed and threw up both his hands/And said this boy was born to be a Bluesman". And "When You Walk Out That Door" benefits from one of the better arrangements (and mixes) on the album (unfortunately the liner notes don't tell us which cuts were recorded in Memphis vs. Los Angeles). But elsewhere the rocking rhythm guitars ruin an otherwise effective performance of "Stop" and the mix almost buries the stomping "Trouble", which features King's most powerful and best recorded leads.
Overall you have an album absolutely necessary for King fanatics but perhaps one the casual fan can do without. Like I said earlier I'm still hoping for a re-release with a brand new mix or newly recorded backing tracks. Sadly, as it's been 25+ years without a single reissue I reckon that's just a dream of mine. Nevertheless this is part of the Albert King story and it should be properly credited wherever his discography appears.
"Blues At Sunset" (Stax 1993)
1. Match Box Blues
*** Material culled from two dates- the legendary Wattstax Festival in 1972 and the Montreux Festival in 1973. At Wattstax the best is excellent versions of Howlin' Wolf's "Killing Floor", hit "Angel O Mercy" and his own "Got To Be Some Changes Made". The Montreux material boasts a faster-paced "Matchbox Blues" and the full 11-minute version of a cut released as an edit on the comp "Montreux Festival" in 1973 ("Stormy Monday").
"The Ultimate Collection" (Rhino 1993)
****1/2 This 2-CD 38-song collection is perfect for casual blues collectors because it contains most of the essentials that can fit on two discs. Beginning with "Be On Your Merry Way" from 1953, this also contains the rare "C.O.D". There are no Bobbin or Chess cuts found here but the best Stax material is represented from 1967's "Born Under A Bad Sign", "Laundromat Blues", 'Oh Pretty Woman", etc, plus singles that followed the "Born Under A Bad Sign" album ("Cold Feet", "You're Gonna Need Me", "You Sure Drive A Hard Bargain" "I Love Lucy"). The two highlights from "Live Wire" are here: "Blues Power" & "Blues At Sunrise". The hits from "I'll Play The Blues For You" and other early 70s Stax albums and a smart sampling of his late 70s Tomato outings ("Cadillac Assembly Line", "Cold Women With Ward Hearts", "The Feeling") and ending with 1984's "Phone Booth". Not perfect but nicely-assembled and annotated.
"Chicago 1978" (Charly 1994)
1. King's Bounce
*** As the title claims this material is taken from a 1978 date and features some tracks current then ("Rub My Back" mis-titled as "Tired As A Man Can Be" & "You're My Woman, I'm Your Mate) and King standards "Born Under A Bad Sign", "Breaking Up Somebody's Home" & "Blues At Sunrise". Collectors note there's one of only a couple live versions of "Please Come Back To Me" here. The sound quality is good as King's voice and guitar are upfront.
"The Tomato Years" (Rhino 1994)
1. Cold Women With Warm Hearts
** King's late 70s discofied Tomato Records period was his flabbiest and least acclaimed but this collects some the highlights onto one disc. The best being "Cadillac Assembly Line", "Cold Women With Ward Hearts" & the live "I'm Gonna Call You Soon As The Sun Goes Down". There have been countless and sometimes better compilations of this period. Look for an album called "Guitar Man: An Essential Collection" on Fuel2000 (not reviewed on this site) for a better representation. Other (useless) compilations of this period include "Smokin The Blues" (Dressed To Kill 2000), "Truckload Of Lovin'" (Recall 2000) , "Guitar Man: An Essential Collection" (Varese 2001)
"Funky London" (Stax 1994)
1. Cold Sweat
**** Very strong collection of singles and unreleased cuts drawn from his 1969-1974 prime Stax period. The piledriving "Can't You See What You're Doing To Me", the blistering instrumental version of James Brown's "Cold Sweat" and the obscure "Funky London" comprise the previously released material. The outtakes are surprisingly- or perhaps not surprisingly- terrific. The fat, bass-heavy "Bad Luck" would have fit nicely on "I Wanna Get Funky". "Lonesome" is a fine 8+ minute slow blues workout complete with a false start, as is the 10+ minute "Lovingst Woman In Town". "Finger On The Trigger" is a cousin to "The Hunter" and the instrumental "Sweet Fingers" lives up to the title. A final highlight is his forceful reading of Roosevelt Syke's "Driving Wheel".
"Blues Power" (Stax 1995)
1. Blues Power
** Irrelevant and annoying mini-compilation of both live and studio material all available elsewhere. Live: "Blues Power" & "Born Under A Bad Sign". This is suppose to be a "budget-priced" commercial for King's work but last I saw it retails the same as any other Stax cd! The three studio cuts are "Matchbox Blues", "Sun Gone Down (Take 1)" from "The Lost Session" & "Angel Of Mercy".
"Mean Mean Blues" (King 1995)
Brief and obsolete set of King Records sides.
1. Why You So Mean to Me
"Live On Memory Lane" (Monad 1995)
*** Supposedly a "live" album. There's a rumour these are simply "The Big Blues" studio takes with an audience track added. A comparison of the two records pretty much confirms such.
1. I Walked All Night Long
"Blues For You: The Best Of" (Stax 1995)
Haphazard UK compilation noteworthy for it's inclusion of the rare B-side "Left Hand Woman (Get Right With Me)".
"Hard Bargain" (Stax 1996)
Another collection of B-sides & studio outtakes from the Stax years 1966-1972.
1. Overall Junction
*** Another collection of B-sides & studio outtakes from the Stax years 1966-1972. First, the frustrating news. This set contains the title cut, "Overall Junction", "Funk Shun" and "You're Gonna Need Me" but NOT "Cold Feet" and "I Love Lucy" which means you STILL have to either buy a King "best of" cd or hold onto your copy of "King Of The Blues Guitar". This is irritating now that you can get the "Born Under A Bad Sign" cd remastered without the singles and B-Sides of the same period you have on "King Of The Blues Guitar". This collection could have rectified this problem but gives us only 4 of the 6! Now onto the unreleased material- much of which was recorded during the "Years Gone By" sessions. "Drowning On Dry Land", "Heart Fixing Business", "The Sky is Crying" and "As The Years Go Passing By" are all good alternate versions of cuts that made the album- in fact they're just as good. King fanatics will enjoy the subtle differences like the ominous organ on the alternate "As The Years Go Passing By". The most interesting are the "new" songs. Ray Charles' "I Believe To My Soul" is given the King-treatment (sans the backup vocals), which may remind some of Son Seal's version. "Got To be Some Changes Made" is presented in an uptempo version and it burns! "Shake 'Em On Down" is an outtake fro sessions that made up the "Lovejoy" album (same producer: Don Nix) and a funky instrumental called "Albert's Groove #2".
"Rainin' In California" (Wolf 1998)
Excellent sound graces this 1983 live date.
1. King's Groove
***1/2 Excellent sound graces this 1983 live date. King does inspired performances of "The Sky Is Crying", his then-current "Rainin' In California" and "I Wonder Why". In addition likable versions of "Cold Women With Warm Hearts", "Kansas City" and the ubiquitous "I'll Play The Blues For You". Check it out even if you are drowning in a sea of posthumous Albert live releases.
"Live In Canada" (Charly 1999)
**1/2 Possibly recorded in 1983 this typically good live set features some of the usual suspects ("I'll Play The Blues", "Kansas City", "Sky is Crying", "Watermelon Man") alongside rarities like "Trucker's Blues" (basically "Matchbox Blues" with slightly different monologue), "Someday Baby" (a "Blues Power"-like slow blues with seemingly improvised words) and 1983's "Rainin' In California". None of the versions disappoint but none of them are definitive either. Docked half a "*" due to subpar sound (audience recording?)
Albert King with Stevie Ray Vaughan "In Session" (Stax 1999)
1. Call It Stormy Monday
***** Recorded for a 1983 TV special called "In Session" this masterpiece of live blues is essential for SRV or King fans. The hot, young Stevie Ray Vaughan was riding high on the success of his debut cd "Texas Flood" and his obvious skills pushed Albert to the limits- thus a friendly "guitar duel" occurs- albeit it is more a respectful taking of turns. Albert shows a rare bit of humility as he pledges to pass the torch to young Stevie as he is not getting too old during chatter interspiced between the performances. The banter between the two doesn't detract but adds as it is an event to hear the two the of them together. King handles all the vocals minus Vaughan doing a raucous version of his hit "Pride And Joy" with King playing rhythm guitar. The best cut is "Ask Me No Questions" where the band is tight and motivated by the positive tension between the blues greats. Other interesting moments are Albert's reminisces about Stevie Ray sitting in when King played in Texas and King's jams with Jimi Hendrix during "Blues At Sunrise". A joy to listen to.
"Truckload Of Lovin': The Best Of" (Recall 1999)
"The Very Best Of" (Rhino 1999)
1. Let's Have a Natural Ball
**** Tidy 16-song summation of King's career is almost perfect for what it offers. From Bobbin's "Let's Have A Natural Ball" through Tomato's "Cadillac Assembly Line". Had they added 1984's "Phone Booth" on here it would be a perfect single disc portrait (cutting "Overall Junction" would have kept it at the requisite 16 tracks).
"Godfather Of The Blues: His Last European Tour" (P-Vine 2001)
1 Introduction (The
Godfather of the Blues)
**1/2 This July 1992 date was cut not long before his fatal heart attack some five months later. It's the same King setlist you can find on numerous live cds ("I'll Play The Blues", "Bad Sign", "Stormy Monday") but the novelty is that it was his last tour. One factor prohibiting you purchase is this Japanese release is hard and/or expensive to obtain. Thus it is recommend only to completists. A video also exists.
"More Big Blues" (Ace UK 2001)
All of King's recordings for the Bobbin label are on this disc, including everything from his 1959-1963 singles for the label and previously unissued alternate takes of "Why Are You So Mean to Me," "The Time Has Come," and the previously unissued "Blues at Sunrise."
1. Let's Have a Natural Ball
"Talkin' Blues" (Thirsty Ear 2003)
1. Born Under a Bad Sign
***This takes most of the "Chicago 1978" and adds four interview snippets between the songs. The interview bits are nice to hear once or twice but are intrusive in time. Being that this release omits a few tracks available on the "Chicago" release there's is really no reason to own this.
"Blues From The Road" (Fuel2000 2003)
**** This is the first cd release of the complete double LP "Live" released on Utopia in 1977. Very good live package cut at the 1975 Montreux Jazz Festival during his funky blues period contains the great slow blues "I'm Gonna Call You Soon As The Sun Go Down" and "Blues At Sunrise". King also debuts a derivative original that became a concert staple ("Matchbox Blues"). The rest of the set contains good versions of some of his Stax hits ("I'll Play The Blues For You", "That's What The Blues is All About"). As was on the LP this cd release contains a lengthy guitar jam with Rory Gallagher called "Blues In A Flat"
"Live '69" (Tomato 2003)
1. You Don't Love Me Baby
*** The third live cd released in 2003. Taken from a show on May 29, 1969, in Madison, Wisconsin this performance finds Albert King at his peak and features confident versions of "Crosscut Saw," "Personal Manager", "As the Years Go Passing By" and a 15-minute "Please Come Back To Me". Unfortunately the sound quality is subpar.
"The Complete King & Bobbin Recordings" (Collectables 2004)
1. Ooh-Ee Baby
**** The title says it all. 24 tracks Albert King recorded in the late '50s and early '60s for the Bobbin and King labels. These post-Parrot, pre-Stax tracks include "I've Made Nights By Myself," "Blues at Sunrise," "The Time Has Come", "Why Are You So Mean to Me", "Let's Have a Natural Ball," "I Get Evil," and "Don't Throw Your Love On Me So Strong". This replaces the set "Let's Have A Natural Ball"
Various Artists "Windy City Blues" (Stax 2004)
*** Four unreleased Albert King tracks produced by Willie Dixon ("Lovingst Woman In Town", "Put It All In There", "Need More Mama", "Love Me To Death") are the main reason for this album's existence. (They could've released these four with other King material as a new "Albert King" album- and included "Cold Feet", "I Love Lucy", etc...) Nevertheless there's perfectly fine tracks by Otis Spann, Willie Dixon, Billy Boy Arnold, Sunnyland Slim and Homesick James
"Stax Profiles" (Stax 2006)
1. Born Under a Bad Sign
** The only thing notable about this sampler is the inclusion of an unreleased live version of "Born Under A Bad Sign" that was inexplicably not included on the 1999 "In Session" release with Stevie Ray Vaughan. Not enough to merit a purchase methinks.
"Heat Of The Blues" (Music Avenue 2007)
1. Cold Women With
*** Finally someone figured out you could fit all four of King's mid 70s Tomato Records albums into one package. Forget the countless compilations of this material, "Heat Of The Blues" is the only purchase you need, collecting the complete "Truckload Of Lovin'", "King Albert", "Albert" & "New Orleans Heat" LPs on two CDs with liner notes and session information.
"The Very Best Of" (Stax 2007)
1. Laundromat Blues
"The Definitive" (Stax 2011)
"Bad Luck Blues" (Blues Blvd 2012)
1. Bad Luck Blues
"Roadhouse Blues" (Concord 2013)
1. I'll Play the Blues for You [Edit]
"Live In The 70s" (Rockbeat 2014)
1. Blues Power
1 I Believe
To My Soul
"Live at the Fabulous Forum 1972" (Rockbeat 2015)
1 Got To Be Changes Made
"Live at the Bottom Line" (Echoes 2017)
1 Introduction / Jam
"Live at the Fillmore Plus Early Studio Recordings" (? 2017)
"On My Merry Way - Singles As & Bs - The Earliest Sessions Of The Guitar King 1954-1962" (Jazmine 2017)
1. Be On Your Merry Way