Relaxed and confident, Albert King’s I’ll Play the Blues for You was released on Stax in 1972. The Concord Music Group has remastered the album, adding four previously unreleased bonus tracks. King’s vocals and especially his soulful guitar leads define supple smoothness. The Bar-Kays and The Movement provide low-intensity funk backing, aided by The Memphis Horns. All things considered, not an earth-shattering work but a consistently fine one.
The lengthier tracks are the best, including the title track and especially the simmering “Breaking Up Somebody’s Home.” King’s solos on the latter are economical, yet absolutely drip with feeling. Buried in the liner notes is the claim that the song, released as a single, dented Billboard’s R&B Top 40– only surprising because it wasn’t a bigger hit. Later in the album, King covers the Marvin Gaye smash “I’ll Be Doggone,” a fun jam marred by some phony-souding audience overdubs (as alleged in the liner notes).
“Answer to Laundromat Blues” is the only King original on the album proper, and it’s best to ignore his rather misogynistic narrative and focus on the vital guitar work. One of the tightest grooves is heard on “Don’t Burn Down the Bridge (‘Cause You Might Wanna Come Back Aross).” Again, King’s lead lines are the most prominent feature of the mix.
The previously unissued version of the title track runs longer than the album track and features a different horn arrangement. The alternate “Don’t Burn Down the Bridge” is arguably better than the album version, with a chunkier, practically rocking rhythmic approach. Of the final two bonus tracks, “I Need a Love” starts off like a smooth ballad but its final three minutes contain some of King’s hottest licks. The brief instrumental “Albert’s Stomp” is a funky instrumental with sizzling organ playing.
Essential for Albert King fans, I’ll Play the Blues for You gains considerable value with the additional quartet of tracks. The remastered sound is superb, allowing the listener to really appreciate King’s irresistible guitar tone as well as the terrific rhythm section. A new essay by Bill Dahl accompanies Tom Wheeler’s original liner notes.