Albert King recorded a lot in the early '60s, including some classic sides, but they never quite hit the mark. They never gained a large audience, nor did they really capture the ferocity of his single-string leads. Then he signed with Stax in 1966 and recorded a number of sessions with the house band, Booker T. & the MG's, and everything just clicked…
Curious, isn't it, how some of the greatest guitarists in post-war Blues history all shared the same regal surname? And entirely fitting. Freddie, Albert, and Earl King royally ruled the Blues kingdom with their brilliant innovations and seminal licks. All of them greatly impacted the Rock field as well. Eric Clapton cites Freddie as a major influence, while Stevie Ray Vaughan was an Albert acolyte. Jimi Hendrix did a dynamite version of Earl's 'Let The Good Times Roll.' These three kings of the electric Blues guitar played a mammoth role in defining the sound of post-war Blues guitar. Their influence remains monumental to this day.
All of King's recordings for the Bobbin label are on this 22-track disc, including everything from his 1959-1963 singles for the label and previously unissued alternate takes of "Why Are You So Mean to Me," "The Time Has Come," and the previously unissued "Blues at Sunrise." While these are decent journeyman urban blues/R&B, they're not up to the level of his subsequent recordings for Stax. Albert King just sounds too much like the records another King – B.B. King, that is – was making during the same era. There are similar horn arrangements and alternation of stinging guitar with smooth, confident vocal phrasing. It's a tribute to Albert King's abilities, in a way, that it does sound confident, and not the work of an imitator, despite the similarities.
A collection of Albert King's recordings for Stax, Roadhouse Blues doesn't quite live up to its title, as it isn't down and dirty like the blues played at an out-of-the-way juke joint. Instead, this is slick, funky soul-blues that emphasizes the blues somewhat but certainly has a bit of the slick, keyboard-and-horn-fueled funkiness of the '70s. There are a couple of oddities here – a version of "Killing Floor" that has a vocal, a live version of "Match Box Blues" from Wattstax – but this is best thought of as a nice sampler of Albert King's somewhat unheard and definitely underrated early-'70s work.
Albert King enjoyed an erratic but memorable reign at Tomato in the 1970s. The label aimed to continue the success King had enjoyed at Stax mixing blues backing and vocals with pop/soul arrangements and lyrics……
Albert King kept threatening to retire during the last decade of his life, yet he continued spreading his blues-power sound to audiences of every persuasion around the globe right up until a massive heart attack killed him in Memphis on December 21, 1992. King did, however, stop making records, and this January 1984 recording, cut for Fantasy Records in Berkeley, California, was his very last album. Backed by his road rhythm section and legendary Phil Spector session saxophonist Steve Douglas, King kept one foot in the Mississippi Delta with a couple of Elmore James classics ("Dust My Broom," "The Sky Is Cryin'), and the other in contemporary material by such then-little-known writers as Doug MacLeod ("Your Bread Ain't Done") and Robert Cray ("Phone Booth"). Digitally remastered by George Horn (1991, Fantasy Studios, Berkeley).
Crosscut Saw reissues Albert King's 1983 album San Francisco '83 (a studio album, not a live one), adding two previously unreleased cuts. His first new release in five years, it wasn't one of King's better records – but it did represent a return to a basic five-piece sound, an improvement upon his over-produced outings of the late '70s.