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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Albert Collins: Iceman


1) Mr. Collins, Mr. Collins; 2) Iceman; 3) Don’t Mistake Kindness For Weakness; 4) Travellin’ South; 5) Put The Show On The Other Foot; 6) I’m Beginning To Wonder; 7) Head Rag; 8) The Hawk; 9) Blues For Gabe; 10) Mr. Col­lins, Mr. Collins (faded version).

The gods were so angry with Collins for selling out to a major label (Virgin, or, more precisely, its subsidiary Pointblank), that they sent him to hell with liver cancer two years later. But appare­ntly none of the gods took the trouble of actually listening to the album, because there is nothing whatsoever that would seriously set it apart from his Alligator records. Its main flaw is recyclism, not sellout-ism. With Johnny Gayden still on bass, and Albert and his wife in tight control of the songwriting, performing, arranging, and production, no doctoring is involved — and I am not even sure this is so much of a plus.

The only thing about Iceman that’s memorable is the little funky guitar grumble that opens the album, and a worried female chorus that retorts: “Mr. Collins, Mr. Collins... please, Mr. Collins... DON’T PLAY SO LOUD!” And, in general, Mr. Collins obliges. There are almost no fiery out­bursts that could, in the end, save face even for the weakest of his Alligator albums: ‘Blues For Gabe’, for instance, an instrumental that closes the album and could be expected to blow away the roof, is unpleasantly tepid, and puts as much of a spotlight on the guitar as it does on the or­gan and trombone solos, a real crime when it comes to Collins.

Everything is professional, but there is truly nothing here that is not a rewrite of some earlier suc­cess (or misfire), and the only way to admire Iceman is for the man’s tenacity: true, he has firmly wedged the formula into the ground, but he managed to bravely carry it through the disco, New Wave, synth pop, hair metal, and grunge eras without even pretending to notice that any of these eras really took place. Not even Virgin record executives could make him admit this. From that angle, Iceman is deserving of deep respect (and how many 60-year old bluesmen can sustain that level of energy, anyway? Buddy Guy, perhaps) — but from any other, it is stunningly weak, with no strength left at all to come up with even modestly new ideas. At least ‘I Ain’t Drunk’ had the no­velty factor to it, and then there were all these tunes on which he used the guitar for cool spe­cial effects, but no such luck here: Iceman is the kind of album the man could easily produce at the rate of a dozen a day. Thumbs down.

1 comment:

  1. I'm no Buddy Guy expert (don't have much more than compilations covering his early career) but 'Sweet Tea' is one of the most kickass blues albums I've ever heard. Talk about energy. It's freakin' brutal. 'Stay All Night' is almost industrial in its ferocious groove.

    I don't know if you're planning on moving on to another artist next week or you're gonna muck about in addenda-land for a couple of weeks, but in any case anyone who's interested in more Albert Collins should definitely check out 'The Iceman At Mount Fuji', a posthumous live album that's better than all that other live stuff (except maybe Frozen Alive). Lots a kickass guitar, decent band solos, and almost no boring lounge/ballad stuff.