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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Albert Collins: Alive & Cool


1) Introduction Instrumental; 2) How Blue Can You Get; 3) Thaw Out; 4) So Tired; 5) Funky; 6) Deep Freeze; 7) Baby What You Want Me To Do; 8) Mustang Sally; 9) Backstroke.

Recorded at the Fillmore in 1969, so the label says (not clear if it's East or West, or though), but possibly not intended for immediate live release: the sound quality is downright awful, maybe just half a step up from bootleg quality, and, in fact, I would not be surprised to learn that the ori­ginal LP was pressed from some bootleg tapes.

Which is actually very sad, because the only reason one would want to listen to Albert Collins in the first place are those little hard-to-capture, impossible-to-describe nuances in his tone and phra­sing that make him different from millions of similar blueswailers; but there is just no way you can get them properly in this setting, when the guitar reaches out to you from under a heavy set of muffling pillows.

All the more pity because the setlist is strong, intelligently combining past boogie hits ('Thaw Out', 'Deep Freeze') with contemporary funky material ('Funky' speaks for itself, and Collins' version of 'Mustang Sally' may be the least generic rendition of this old standard that you will ever hear, if only because he just employs the song's skeleton as a basis for some hot jamming) and only a couple formulaic 12-bar blues numbers ('How Blue Can You Get'; an almost ironically somnambulous version of 'Baby What You Want Me To Do', with Collins mimicking Jimmy Reed's manner of singing without resorting to serious use of the teeth or tongue even closer than he did in the studio).

Goddamn sound quality does not let you enjoy Al's backing band properly either, no matter how tight they get on both the funky and the bluesy stuff. There are some really wild organ solos, though; my favourite is on 'Deep Freeze', where the organist tortures the instrument in a manner almost reminiscent of Keith Emerson's behaviour, and begs for the question — did The Nice and Albert Collins ever share the billing?). But all in all, recommendable only for well-established fans; the ones unconvinced of Albert Collins' worthiness would do better to seek out the later, more technically polished live recordings first.

1 comment:

  1. The fact that what is listed as "Thaw Out" is actually "Frosty" is another thing that points to a probable, ahem, dubious origin.