ALBERT KING: THE PINCH (1977)
1) The Blues Don't Change; 2) I'm Doing Fine; 3) Nice To Be Nice (Ain't That Nice); 4) Oh, Pretty Woman; 5) King Of Kings; 6) Feel The Need; 7) Firing Line (I Don't Play With Your Woman, You Don't Play With Mine); 8) The Pinch Paid Off, Pt. 1; 9) The Pinch Paid Off, Pt. 2; 10) I Can't Stand The Rain; 11) Ain't It Beautiful.
Taking the «1977» date at face value, one might be astonished at a sudden leap in quality — all of a sudden, King can be interesting once again without going onstage. But we are still in Kansas, and miracles do not happen as frequently here as we would like them to: The Pinch is, in reality, a collection of outtakes from 1973-74 sessions, released by Fantasy Records (who had by then acquired control over the entire Stax backlog) to compete commercially with King's Tomato output — frankly speaking, though, there is no competition whatsoever, as this record is well worth all of King's «tomatoes» put together.
The first track opens the session on such a chivalrous note, in fact, that the album was later reissued under the name The Blues Don't Change (or perhaps the company just decided to withdraw the original suggestive album cover, depicting that part of the female form with which the word 'pinch' is quite commonly associated). Hymns to blues power are King's forte, since few artists of his stature are more tightly connected to the 12-bar form than Albert, and, thus, few are entitled to getting pompous and religious on the subject better than the man. You just know you have to trust him when he tells you 'I know the blues don't change', never mind the fact that this song was rolling in the stores on a parallel chronological basis with doodoo like 'Love Mechanic'.
On everything else, you know the Stax people will be there with their chuggy rhythms, and the Memphis Horns will be all funky and sweaty and cooking. Perhaps the remake of 'Oh, Pretty Woman' was not necessary (they decide to plcuk most of the anger out of the song), but the hot funk jam 'King Of Kings' (J. C. just got to be shaking his booty to that one), the long, complex R'n'B saga of 'The Pinch Paid Off', the quiet spookiness of 'I'm Doing Fine' — masterpieces or not, these are fine, well-played, driving tunes with all members of the team obviously interested in delivering quality entertainment rather than making some quick bucks on King's coattails.
A massive thumbs up, then, and I will put in a few superfluous exclamation marks as well — !!!!!!!!!!! there !!!!!!!! — so that the reader does not miss them and takes the trouble to single this record out of Albert's pool of late 1970's «tomato mediocrity» and have it round out the trilogy of his precious funk period offerings, together with I'll Play The Blues For You and I Wanna Get Funky.