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Monday, November 16, 2009

Albert King: Crosscut Saw


1) Honey Bee; 2) Ask Me No Questions; 3) I'm Gonna Move To The Outskirts Of Town; 4) They Made The Queen Welcome; 5) Floodin' In California; 6) I Found Love In The Food Stamp Line; 7) Match Box Blues; 8) Crosscut Saw; 9) Why You So Mean To Me.

After a lengthy break from recording, King reemerged for a two-album stunt in the Eighties, on Fantasy Records — the same label that had earlier bought out the Stax catalog, which does not, however, mean that it also bought out Stax's creativity and inspiration. The best I can say about this "comeback" is that, technically, this is a comeback: first time in years, King releases a pure blues album. No frills. Strictly 12-bar, strictly guitar-bass-drums, and some piano to boot.

Since the man's playing and singing have not deteriorated one bit, regardless of all the perturba­tions during the Tomato years, Crosscut Saw is definitely a must for fans. However, evaluating it in its historical context means recalling that we already know all these licks by heart, and that each new solo will be painfully predictable. This could have been compensated by dazzling ef­forts on the part of the rhythm section, but this new band of Albert's just seems to have no indivi­duality whatsoever. Even when they pick up the tempo and start to boogie a little bit ('They Made The Queen Welcome'), I do not feel any genuine rock'n'roll excitement. These are paid people who do their job and little else.

In short, a huge disappointment. Having fully reembraced his blues roots, King has unvolunta­rily joined the Eighties-up-to-present "blues revival" — a movement beautifully fit for mid-level bar­rooms and restaurants, but little else. I would bet anything that "Larry Burton" on rhythm guitar, "Michael Llorens" on drums, "Tony Llorens" on piano, whoever they are — actually, Larry Bur­ton at least is a slightly well-known solo blues artist nowadays — were totally overjoyed to have the honor of backing a giant like King, but the sad truth is, they just don't do this giant any justice, steering him in the safest, most uninteresting direction possible. And a particular ugh goes for Tony Llorens' cheap piano tone.

To add insult to injury, the record is crowned by a remake of a remake (!!): a new recording of 'Crosscut Saw' which, with its two parts, imitates the re-recording of 'Crosscut Saw' on I Wanna Get Funky. Thumbs down, no doubt about it; instead of wasting your money, if you really need another Albert King record, trace down some old archive or live release from the early Seventies.

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