R&B, Blues, Soul & Stax

Blues, '70s Style


Albert King is synonymous with sound of Stax blues, having joined the label in 1966 and recorded much of his best-known work during that period backed by the Stax house band Booker T. & the MGs, charting hits like "Born Under A Bad Sign," which became a blues-rock standard. Perhaps lesser known is his body of work for Stax that coincided with the emergence of funk in the early 1970s, some of which was compiled by the label in 1991 for Roadhouse Blues, a selection of King's unique brand of blues-soul.

The compilation opens with an edited version of "I'll Play the Blues for You," on which King and the band rein in their typical exuberance a bit and slip into a slightly more subdued but noticeably slicker blues. King's guitar sounds cleaner than usual and the band somehow more refined, with a decidedly funky pulse and the emphasis more on production than raw blues. The same can be said of the following song, "I Can't Hear Nothing But the Blues." A few later tracks on the album lean more towards King's signature sound, such as "Answer to the Laundromat Blues," "Dust My Broom,"  and a live version of the title track. Still, King dips back to this newer sound on tunes like "Bay Area Blues," and even manages to make "Hound Dog" sound like a forgotten funk B-side.

The biggest surprise on the release, however, is a live version of "Match Box Blues," a jammed-out boogie-woogie that sounds like the foundation for the Allman Brothers entire live catalog. Even when he's testing new musical languages, King always hews to the mother tongue.