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Monday, September 21, 2009

Albert King: Blues At Sunrise

BLUES AT SUNRISE (1973; 1988)

1) Don't Burn Down The Bridge ('Cause You Might Wanna Come Back Across); 2) I Believe To My Soul; 3) For The Love Of A Woman; 4) Blues At Sunrise; 5) I'll Play The Blues For You; 6) Little Brother (Make A Way); 7) Roadhouse Blues.

This is a pretty good example of Albert's early 1970s live sound, well worth owning if only be­cause he somehow missed releasing a live album back then, in its own time, which would make Blues At Sunrise a significant addition to the blues addict's collection. Recorded in July 1973 at the famous Montreux Festival, it catches King at the early stage of his "funkier" period, so the setlist is predictably heavy on songs from I'll Play The Blues For You with a few respectable oldies, like the title track, thrown on for balance.

The affair is certainly less stripped than the Fillmore concerts: King is backed by a full brass sec­tion — understandable, since his records from that period depend even more on the horns than Born Under A Bad Sign — and also his second guitarist, Donald Kinsey, is given quite a bit of prominence, even "dueling" with the King on the lengthier jams. He's quite competent, but it's also quite likely that Albert let him take center stage only to emphasize his own brilliance (a mo­rally questionable trick that Eric Clapton so loves to reproduce during his own shows).

Another reason to own this is that King is exploring heavier, more "electrified" guitar tones in this live setting, than the thin, shrill tone he is usually known for on his studio and earlier live records. Listening to these performances in their chronological place, one can get the impression that he was just given this new guitar two days ago and wanted to test its abilities — there's plenty of new licks here that aren't usually associated with King, and his reliance on the power of vibrato is entirely unprecedented; he ends up sounding like Hendrix from time to time. You only have to go back once to the studio version of 'Don't Burn Down The Bridge' to understand that this Montreux version blows it away completely — provided you respect "heavy blues", of course, and do not hold the conviction that extra heaviness kills off the delicate subtleties and is much better suited for emotionally deaf nitwits.

For fact lovers, 'I Believe To My Soul' is the original Ray Charles tune (somewhat sad to hear it without the trademark piano chords, though), and King even preserves the old lyrics ('...when you know my name is Ray' — do we?); 'Roadhouse Blues', however, is not the Doors song, but rather just another generic ten-minute jam that sounds exactly like the other generic ten-minute jam ('Blues At Sunrise'). But it's Albert King, and it's a cool sound, especially when after the so-so solo of Kinsey comes the shotgun blast of Albert. Also, 'For The Love Of A Woman' is set to the exact rhythm pattern of 'Crossroads' as arranged by Cream during their live performances, so for all it's worth, you might think of this performance as King's tribute to Cream. Oh, and thumbs are up, of course. This is quite definitely treasurable.

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