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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Albert Collins: Live '92-'93

ALBERT COLLINS: LIVE '92-'93 (1995)

1) Iceman; 2) Lights Are On But Nobody's Home; 3) If You Love Me Like You Say; 4) Put The Shoe On The Other Foot; 5) Frosty; 6) Travelin' South; 7) Talkin' Woman; 8) My Woman Has A Black Cat Bone; 9) I Ain't Drunk; 10) T-Bone Shuffle.

One thing of note about this posthumous release is that there is no telling any significant diffe­rence between the tracks recorded in 1992 (at a couple US gigs) and in 1993 (at the Montreux Jazz Festival) — even though, while playing at Montreux, Albert was well aware that he had about three months left to live, having been diagnosed with lung and liver cancer a month prior to the gig. It helps a lot to keep that in mind while listening, because, otherwise, well, it's just ano­ther live Albert Collins album, right?

A pretty good one, actually, even if the setlist is a bit too heavy on material from his latest, and not particularly inspired, pair of albums. But, surprise surprise, the songs come alive: 'Iceman' is one minute shorter because it's taken at a slightly faster tempo, and the solos are crisper and more fierce than they were in the studio, where the production surreptitiously muffled and sanitized them. The funky 'Put The Shoe On The Other Foot', on the other hand, is extended, giving the bass player more chances to flaunt his chugging awesomeness, and putting Albert into «stinging» mode at least twice, which he never achieved on the song in the studio.

The lowlight is 'I Ain't Drunk', which loses much of its effect by paying little attention to the pre­cise, comic timing of the original — the band speeds it up, loosens its grip, and still insists on passing it off as a joke number, with Albert's «improvised» chat with the band members about whether he really is drunk or, well, just drinking. But that's just one notable misstep, and they im­mediately cover up for it by playing the harshest, bristliest rendition of 'T-Bone Shuffle' ever.

So maybe there really isn't one single lick on here that Albert hasn't played for your pleasure before, but I am a big context devotee, and the context here consists of two details: (a) this here is a nearly dead man, and he is still playing like all hellhounds were on his trail and the guitar was his equivalent of a big fat cudgel; (b) this here is a man who had battled all his life to maintain his integrity in the studio, and when the studio tried to take away the smallest part of his integrity, he put it all in his stage playing to show us that he certainly ain't «bending like a willow tree». He just passed away quietly in November 1993, untamed to the last. Thumbs up for having been the Master of the Telecaster for thirty-five years, unchallenged.

Check "Live 92-93" (CD) on Amazon
Check "Live 92-93" (MP3) on Amazon

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