R&B, Blues, Soul & Stax

Blues Royalty On Stax

05 MAY 11 DAVID SHANNON

In his long and storied life, perhaps the richest chapter of late blues icon Albert King's (1923-1992) inexhaustible career took place between 1966 and 1975, when he recorded a slew of albums for the legendary Stax label. The partnership produced multiple hits and cemented King's reputation as one of the most influential guitar players and blues singers in the history of music. The Definitive Albert King On Stax chronicles these fruitful years on two discs, showcasing some of the most renowned recordings from the guitarist also known as The Velvet Bulldozer.

The role of the musicians backing him for these recordings reads like a roll call of R&B and funk A-listers. King's '60s-era tracks recorded with Stax house band Booker T. & the MGs, such as "Killing Floor" and the monumental Booker T. Jones/William Bell-penned classic "Born Under A Bad Sign," take traditional blues and turn it into spare, funky dance music. Meanwhile, his '70s session time with The Bar-Kays and Isaac Hayes' band The Movement turned out more layered and big-sounding classics such as "I'll Play The Blues For You" and "I Want To Get Funky."

In fact, there's almost no better way to gauge the difference between his '60s and '70s recordings than the two versions of "Crosscut Saw" the set contains. The first, with Booker T., is akin to a coal-burning train bumping down the tracks, all bounce and rhythm, while the second, this time with The Bar-Kays, is a much flashier, more textured rendition that could have easily been the score for countless '70s fevered dance floors.

The wide-ranging set also features a must-hear cover of the Rolling Stones "Honky Tonk Woman" and a boisterous take on "Hound Dog." With a track list checking in at a whopping 34 songs, The Definitive Albert King On Stax takes the listener on a trip through some of the most prolific years of King's life, and keeps getting funkier and more soulful as it goes.