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Albert King: Talkin' Blues

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There's little need for explanation when it comes to Albert King. Though he never had a profile near that of B.B., the "other" King, he has been incredibly influential on generations of blues musicians. Like fellow lefty Jimi Hendrix, he played a right-handed guitar upside-down and backwards. More than most blues musicians, he lingered on stretched notes to provide emotional emphasis. And rather than aiming for blues purity—which would have been perfectly in character given his Delta and Arkansas origins—he integrated popular styles into his sound.

The 1978 live performance documented on Talkin' Blues was recorded in Chicago and never previously released. As a snapshot of a musical vision in flux, it's quite informative. Signature songs like the opener, "Born Under A Bad Sign," receive a groove-infused treatment from King's core power trio. The horns that chime in regularly throughout these tunes provide rhythmic support and a certain degree of expansiveness, though they tend to be disappointingly repetitive. (Surely that's a conscious choice, but not to my liking.)

Whatever goes on in the background, this is Albert King's show all the way. His playing is warm, articulate, and inviting, with a strong vocal quality. In style, it tends to veer toward the rock and R&B elements that helped King reach a broad audience—check out the pure soul of "The Very Thought of You," for example. On the other tracks his vocals, suitably rough-edged, thrust out in bursts. All in a day's work.

This delayed release has one singular problem. Those three damn interview tracks thrown in the middle of the recording (hint: the record is called Talkin' Blues ) just bring it down. It would have been so much better to save the indulgent talk for the end, instead of interrupting the flow of the music. This is a live show, folks. No need for King to break in and tell us that he "understand[s] the blues."

Oh well. At least these interruptions are all 30 seconds or less, and the bulk of the interview arrives after the music ends.

As a new addition to King's immense discography going back to 1962, this record fills an important gap. In some sense it's a historical document, as the interview emphasizes. Well above average among these recordings, Talkin' Blues has much to offer for dedicated fans and novices alike. It's as good an introduction as any to King's late '70s work.


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Track Listing: Born Under A Bad Sign; Interview (Understanding the Blues); The Very Thought of You; Rub My Back; Interview (Make Sure to Add the Blues); I'll Play the Blues for You; Blues at Sunrise; Interview (I don't want to be rich); (I Feel Like) Breaking Up Somebody's Home; Please Come Back To Me; Full-Length Interview.

Personnel: Albert Collins: guitar, voice; plus other musicians.

Title: Talkin' Blues | Year Released: 2003 | Record Label: Thirsty Ear Recordings

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