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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Albert Collins: The Compleat Albert Collins


1) Soul Food; 2) Jam It Up; 3) Do What You Want To Do; 4) Black Bottom Bayou; 5) Junkey Monkey; 6) 69 Under­pass Roadside Inn; 7) I Need You So; 8) Bitsey; 9) Cool 'n' Collards; 10) Blend Down And Jam; 11) Sweet 'n' Sour; 12) Swamp Sauce.

Boy, what a seriously deceptive title. Unless it was, from the very beginning, designed not to make any sense at all, the only logical reaction is that, with this release, Albert Collins has seve­red all ties with his past and disowned all of his legacy. But this is clearly not the case, since he still went on to play the old stuff in concert! So no, make sense it does not.

Nevertheless, there are some stylistic changes at hand here; good ones, too. The album is, overall, more of a rocking affair, with less emphasis on brass instrumentation and more on fiery guitar and funky rhythms. With 'Jam It Up' and its progressive addition of instruments, Collins is openly moving into King Curtis' and Sly Stone's territory, and he holds his ground well: the Texan boys cook with verve, and Albert's usual mini-blasts of icicle-sharp notes are the perfect emotional stin­gers on top of the groove. He is also exploring the world of guitar effects, achieving a psycho wobbly one on 'Soul Food' (must be one of those «Leslie cabinets» or something) and various mi­nor, less noticeable, variations on the other tracks.

More questionable is the move into country territory on 'Black Bottom Bayou', which seems to be just an excuse to try and deliver one of his minimalistic solos over a waltz tempo — I am still not entirely sure why we needed to hear that, nor why it was necessary to end the overall jolly record on a silly yodeling note ('Swamp Sauce', which could have been a funny joke without the vocals but quickly turns into an annoying one with them).

But there are just too many hot funky grooves on here to make the odd country excourses too much of a problem. 'Soul Food', 'Jam It Up', 'Bitsey', 'Cool 'n' Collards' are all worthy additions to the Collins canon, no matter how little they differ from each other and how little description they all merit. It should be very clearly restated, though, that the rhythm section — especially the bass player, who lays on fast, variegated, complex lines along with the best of the Stax-Volt people — is as much responsible for the energy and pleasantness of the grooves as Albert himself. So kudos to the band leader for focusing our attention on his bit players as he introduces them, one by one, on 'Jam It Up'. Thumbs up, of course.

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