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Albert King: Born Under a Bad Sign

C. Michael Bailey By

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First things first. Left-handed blues guitarist Albert King played a right-handed, right-strung guitar turned upside down. Left-handed blues guitarist Jimi Hendrix played a right-handed, left-strung guitar upside-down.

That said..

When Albert King came to Memphis and signed with Stax records in 1966, no parties knew exactly what effect King's blues sensibilities would have on the Southern soul of house band Booker T. and the MGs nor how the band's well-established southern-fried credentials would inspire King. The result, captured in technicolor on Born Under a Bad Sign polishes the rough edges of the blues with a humid Memphis soul stew rendering an environment well prepared to present King's exceptional lead guitar playing. Concord Music Group, again capitalizing on their endless discography, polishes this classic in a remastered edition that joins Booker T and the MGs 50th Anniversary of Green Onions (Stax, 1962).

The title cut was composed by Stax house musicians Booker T. Jones and William Bell and bears the Stax soul stamp of complexity clothed in the simple. The composition employed a strolling bass line in a C# pentatonic against the piano and horns remaining tonally major. Like Paganini using a scordatura to brighten his violin sound, the C# pentatonic against the major performs the same function harmonically overall in "Born Under a Bad Sign." The song went on to be successfully covered by Paul Butterfield, Cream, Etta James and Jimi Hendrix.

The presence of the Memphis Horns more than even the house rhythm section inoculates this recording with its Memphis sound that falls somewhere between the wide open Southside Chicago raw gasoline and the Fame Studio Muscle Shoals' moonshine. "Crosscut Saw," "Kansas City," "Laundromat Blues" and even Ray Noble's standard "The Very Thought of You" on this Stax reissue, remind us of the unique place Memphis is and what a fine musician Albert King was.

Track Listing: Born Under a Bad Sign; Crosscut Saw; Kansas City; Oh, Pretty Woman; Down Don’t Bother Me, The Hunter; I Almost Lost My Mind; Personal Manager; Laundromat Blues; As The Years Go Passing By; The Very Thought of You; Born Under a Bad Sign (alternate); Crosscut Saw (alternate); The Hunter (alternate); Personal Manager (alternate); Untitled Instrumental.

Personnel: Albert King: vocals, guitar; Steve Cropper: guitar; Booker T. Jones: piano; Isaac Hayes: piano; Donald “Duck” Dunn: bass; Al Jackson: drums; The Memphis Horns.

Title: Born Under a Bad Sign | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Stax Records

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