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A Pair Of Kings

23 DEC 08 ANNE FARNSWORTH

Bluesman Albert King brings righteous authority to Elvis Presley hits on Blues For Elvis, a CD reissue of a classic Stax recording.

Known with fellow royals Freddie and B.B. as one of the three "Kings of Blues," Albert's take on that other King's music is revelatory, an a-ha moment that puts not only Presley's repertoire in historical perspective, but shows King as probably one of the singers who influenced the younger Elvis.

Presley's senior by 12 years, these two sons of the South were tilling the same musical soil in the '50s, if not reaping the same rewards. Their relationship is analogous to today's hip-hoppers, who built the foundation of their bling-bling mega-success on the work of their journeymen forebears in R&B, jazz and, yes, the blues.

Co-produced by Donald "Duck" Dunn, bassist of Stax' legendary house rhythm section Booker T. & The MGs, well-known hits like "Don't Be Cruel" and "Heartbreak Hotel" are retro-fashioned with slower tempos and lower volumes, performed as they would have been before those young rockabilly whippersnappers got their hands on them. King's version of "Hound Dog" hews more closely to the style of Big Momma Thornton's original release than Presley's turbo-charged international hit.

Did I mention the horn section? The brass delivers an unexpected punch to these covers, hot sauce on King's mellow, yet emotional vocals. Lucy, King's guitar which he plays left-handed and technically upside down (with the string placement in right-hand fashion), also shines. Guitar superstars Clapton, Hendrix, Joe Walsh and Stevie Ray Vaughan cite King as an inspiration and covered many of King's own releases.