Monday, 9 July 2012

“I'll Play The Blues For You” by ALBERT KING. A Review Of His 1972 Album Now Remastered And Expanded Onto A 2012 “Stax Remasters” CD.

"…Come On Over To The Place Where I Work…"

I'm loving these "Stax Remasters" CD Reissues even if they do seem to be a bit slow coming out (see list below). And any Albert King album from the period is nectar to my weary palate - so let's get with the details...

Released Monday 4 June 2012 in the UK (22 May 2012 in the USA) - "I'll Play The Blues For You"by ALBERT KING on Concord Music Group, Inc 0888072337169 (Barcode 888072337169) is an 'Expanded Edition' and release number seven in the 2011/2012 "STAX REMASTERS" CD Series and breaks down as follows (60:59 minutes):

1. I'll Play The Blues For You (Part 1 & 2)
2. Little Brother Make A Way
3. Breaking up Somebody's Home
4. High Cost Of Living
5. I'll Be Doggone [Side 2]
6. Answer To The Laundromat Blues
7. Don't Burn Down The Bridge ('Cause You Might Wanna Come Back Across)
8. Angel Of Mercy
Tracks 1 to 8 are the album "I'll Play The Blues For You" - released October 1972 in the USA on Stax Records STS-3009 and January 1973 in the UK on Stax Records 2325 089 

9. I'll Play The Blues For You (Alternate Version) (8:44 minutes) 
10. Don't Burn Down The Bridge ('Cause You Might Wanna Come Back Across) (Alternate Version) (5:13 minutes)
11. I Need A Love (4:29 minutes) [Album Outtake]
12. Albert's Stomp (2:18 minutes) [Album Outtake - Instrumental]

The new 12-page booklet has very knowledgeable and affectionate liner notes by BILL DAHL who did the exceptional liner notes on Bear Family's 1961-1970 "Sweet Soul Music" CDs (10 volumes) and their 1945-1960 "Blowing The Fuse" series on R'n'B music (16 volumes). I've reviewed nearly all of them. You also get the original artwork on the front and rear of the booklet, musician and session details and the LP's original liner notes etc. But once again the big news is the NEWLY REMASTERED SOUND...

I've reviewed all the other titles in the "Stax Remasters" series (see list below) and duly raved about the fabulous sound quality on them - especially after years of lacklustre reissues in jewel cases and repro digipaks. Well this is the same. 24-bit remastered from the first generation tapes at JOE TARANTINO Mastering in Berkeley, California - the audio quality is superbly warm - especially the drum and bass (so sweet). The groove of the keyboards and punchy brass fills are both lovely - full - yet not too forced. My only compliant here would be that the vocals are ever so slightly subdued on some tracks (the title song) - buried in the back of the mix - but the overall quality of the album and the shockingly good bonus material quickly nips that minor quibble in the bud. 

Style-wise this is not so much straight-up Blues - but Soul meets Funk with some Blues guitar licks over the top of the band (a genre I can't get enough of). We open for business with one of Albert's signature songs "I'll Play The Blues For You" (written originally by Shreveport guitarist Jerry Beach for Texas Soul singer Geater Davis). It's 7:19 minutes Part 1 and 2 was cut down to a 3:20 minute 'Part 1 Edit' and issued in advance of the album as a 7" single in June 1972 on Stax STS-0135 with The Bar Kays And The Movement credited as the backing band. The slinky sound quality hits you immediately as do the ever-so-slightly cheesy talking lyrics (title above). On that subject - one of the gems on here is Track 9 - a previously unreleased version of "I'll Play The Blues For You" that runs to an extended 8:44 minutes. It removes the talking and replaces it with a great Sax solo and then a lengthy guitar jam to the end. It's brilliantly recorded and a genuine blast for King fans. How has this remained in the vaults for 40 years! I played it in the shop the other day and it had customers asking at the counter after it...

"Breaking Up Somebody's Home" was a hit for Ann Peebles in February 1972 on Hi Records (written by Al Jackson (drummer with Booker T & The MG's) and Timothy Matthews). King's version is a fabulous 7:19 minute slink-fest sounding not unlike something off "Be Altitude" by The Staple Singers (again from 1972). It was issued as an edited 7" single in October 1972 along with the LP and it's a shame that cut isn't included on here as a bonus. "High Cost Of Loving" is excellent uptempo Blues/Soul too. The only real clinker for me is the opener of Side 2 - his cover of Marvin Gaye's old Motown hit "I'll Be Doggone" where live crowd voices are added to the mix. It probably sounded cool then - but it's terribly dated now. Things perk up considerably with the hilariously un-PC lyrics of "Answer To The Laundromat Blues" (great guitarwork and a sleazy backing rhythm) which are thankfully sung tongue-in-cheek. Perhaps you don't want to sing "We gonna buy you washer and dryers and put you in the basement..." to the ladies in your life any day soon! The album ends is real style though with a great double-whammy - the slow funky guitar-groove of "Don't Burn Down The Bridge..." and the money-worries of "Angel Of Mercy" where Albert pleads with real feeling "...Would you please look down on me...a little mercy is all I need." 

As if the album wasn't good enough - the excellence of the 4 extras are a shock. The first two are blistering 'Alternate Versions' of album tracks while the last two are LP outakes (all in fantastic sound quality). I've discussed "I'll Play The Blues For You" above - the 'Alternate' of "Don't Burn Down The House..." is a more attacking guitar version with a huge sound. Great stuff. You can hear why "I Need A Love" was left off the record - it's good - but it sounds too much like other better tracks. The only real letdown is that the fantastically funky "Albert's Stomp" is criminally cut short at 2:18 minutes - just when you were getting into it (sounds like Ike Turner meets Booker T meets Albert King). All in all - very impressive...

So there you have it - a cracking Blues/Funk album bolstered up with four tracks actually worthy of the description 'bonus' - and all of it topped off with great sound and a value-for-money price tag.Very tasty indeed...and highly recommended.

PS: titles in the "STAX REMASTERS" series are (all reviewed): 
1. Green Onions - BOOKER T. & THE M.G.'S (1962) 
2. McLemore Avenue - BOOKER T. & THE M.G.'S (1970)
3. Woman To Woman - SHIRLEY BROWN (1975)
4. Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get - THE DRAMATICS (1972)
5. Born Under A Bad Sign - ALBERT KING (1967)
6. I'll Play The Blues For You - ALBERT KING (1972)
7. Be Altitude: Respect Yourself - THE STAPLE SINGERS (1972)
8. Taylored In Silk - JOHNNIE TAYLOR (1973)
9. Do The Funky Chicken - RUFUS THOMAS (1970)

PPS: Lovers of ATLANTIC, STAX and VOLT Records should note that as of October 2012 there is a massive reissue program of classic albums going on in Japan - 100+ titles to be exact (which includes Albert King). They feature Fifties Blues and R'n'B, Sixties and Seventies Soul, Funk & Fusion. All are budget price (£7.50 per disc) and feature 2012 DSD remastering. Many of these titles are familiar - but a huge number are new to CD. For a full detailed list of these Japanese reissues - see the 'comment' section attached to this review…

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

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