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Music Review: Albert King – I’ll Play The Blues for You

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Written by General Jabbo

Few people were as adept as blending the blues with the Stax Memphis Soul sound as Albert King. His classic LP, I’ll Play The Blues For You, is a shining example of King’s versatility in different genres. Now 40 years later, as part of Concord’s Stax Remaster Series, the album is getting its rerelease, complete with bonus tracks and 24-bit remastering by Joe Tarantino.

As was always the case at Stax, the musicianship is top-notch throughout. King is backed by not only the Bar-Kays, but also Isaac Hayes’ backing band, The Movement, with both groups sharing some of the other’s members. In addition, the Memphis Horns also make an appearance, really giving the album that Stax sound.

The album opens with the laid back grooves of the title track. At over seven minutes, it was originally released as a two-part single. The song combines King’s signature blues bends, with a ’70s Soul guitar drenched in wah and great accompaniment from the Memphis Horns. If that wasn’t enough, it features a spoken interlude by King, where he tries to get to know his lady friend. It all makes for one of King’s best songs.

“Little Brother (Make A Way)” finds King in R&B mode while he tells how things were harder for him growing up and how people needed to make the most of the opportunities they had in the 1970s. King’s playing is restrained and unflashy, serving the song instead. “Breaking Up Somebody’s Home” has an irresistible groove, mixing blues licks with contemporary soul. It’s another seven-plus-minute track that never gets tiresome. Stevie Ray Vaughan would later quote the lead almost note for note in his own classic, “Crossfire.”

If there’s a clunker here, at least lyrically, it’s “Answer To The Laundromat Blues.” The track is a sequel to King’s “Laundromat Blues,” and has some rather politically incorrect lyrics about what would happen to his lady if the washing weren’t done. It’s either the product of a bygone era or a bit tongue and cheek — or probably a little of both. The track features some blistering lead playing from King, however. The disc includes four bonus tracks, including an almost nine-minute alternate version of the title track and “Albert’s Stomp,” a raucous, up-tempo instrumental with some fine playing from King.

Albert King was, along with B.B. and Freddie, one of the Three Kings of the Blues. I’ll Play The Blues For You is a fine example of why and belongs in not only any King fan’s collection, but any fan of the genre’s as well.

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