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Monday, November 9, 2009

Albert King: New Orleans Heat


ALBERT KING: NEW ORLEANS HEAT (1978)

1) Get Out Of My Life Woman; 2) Born Under A Bad Sign; 3) The Feeling; 4) We All Wanna Boogie; 5) The Very Thought Of You; 6) I Got The Blues; 7) I Get Evil; 8) Angel Of Mercy; 9) Flat Tire.

At the same time that The Pinch floated adrift in space, attracting only the most dedicated King fans where it should have attracted everybody, King's new "original" release, New Orleans Heat, was actively promoted by Tomato Records — for a moot purpose; it is neither better nor worse than King's average Tomato album, and that's not a compliment.

They did try a new move on him, teaming him up with famous R'n'B producer Allen Toussaint, responsible for long strings of 1960's and 1970's hits by a long stream of artists. But they miscal­culated: Toussaint is an excellent composer and arranger, yet he knows fairly little about how to integrate these talents with a first-rate has-been blues guitar legend.

Albert was getting old, and he could be excused for not mastering any new licks or techniques at this stage; this meant gene­rally just re-recording old standards ('Born Under A Bad Sign', 'I Get Evil', 'Angel Of Mercy', 'The Very Thought Of You' — it's always depressing to see these endless lists of remakes on old giants' records), with a lengthy generic blues jam thrown in for good measure ('I Got The Blues' — not the Rolling Stones song, unfortunately) and Toussaint's own 'Get Out Of My Life, Woman' completing the picture.

None of this is enlightening. Production values are high, as should be expected of Toussaint, but the backing band is clearly not interested in working with King; they hack all the backing out professionally and with very little spark. Some oldies are just plain ruined — the formerly snappy 'Born Under A Bad Sign' collapses under the weight of cheesy female choruses, for instance — and by the time 'I Got The Blues', with its totally robotic background, passes the five-minute mark (out of its nine minutes), I'm screaming for mercy.

King's own spirits do not seem all that high to me; he plays it safe and simple, with his guitar very much in the background much of the time. It all gets so bad that, in the end, the only number that sticks with me is the record's corniest — the lame funk workout 'We All Wanna Boogie', just because a corny Albert King at least raises more interest than a boring, by-the-book Albert King. Too bad. Totally thumbs down.

1 comment:

  1. The best thing about the Tomato label was their graphic design, much (most? all?) done by Milton Glaser's Push Pin Studio.

    There was a two-disc various-artists collection that was absolutely great, but the songs were all licensed from Arhoolie.

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