It’s happened to me more than a few time of late. I find myself walking up and down the aisle of the record shop looking for something that tickles my fancy, and I just kind find anything. The one question I keep asking myself is, “where is all the guitar?” I know there has been a recent Gov’t Mule release, but that’s the Dark Side of the Mule release, and I’m not really interested in listening to Warren Haynes add his southern fried hippiness to an album I want kept where it is. Yes, there are some great stoner rock albums being released lately, but I’m talking about the kind of guitar playing that stands out as absolutely brilliant. In my lonely sadness, I pulled out some old Cream records and listened to a young Clapton rip shit up. That made me feel better.
When I was at Vertigo Records this week, it was the same thing. One “indie” record after another, with their full open chord sing-song, but I wanted to be smashed by a guitarist. After my fourth or fifth long pace up the vinyl aisle, I came across a true gem. This masterpiece has been reissued on vinyl as a gatefold double 180 gram thing of beauty by England’s Not Now Music Limited. With its powerful cover art featuring the elder statesman lighting his pipe in a smoke-filled room, I Get Evil by Albert King is a reissue double record that features one LP as King’s debut album The Big Blues from 1962, and a second LP filled with rare early recordings as well as the single-radio versions of some of the hits from Big Blues. The packaging is slick, fantastic, and heck, it’s gatefold, and I always love gatefold records. Sadly though, there is no download card included with this package, but fuck me, it’s the blues and it really should never make me feel all that happy – right?
The first side of The Big Blues starts off with a ripper, Let’s Have a Natural Ball that brings you back to the days of Ray Charles with its big horns and female backing vocals. It almost feels like a jazz recording until King steps in with that powerful bounce on that Flying , played all upside down and backwards. You can hear every British blues guitarist in King. You can hear Stevie Ray Vaughn in every note King plays. Clapton listened to every note played by this master. When the record gets to I Get Evil, again it bounces, much like Howlin’ Wolf bounces on the London Sessions with Clapton, Winwood, and Watts. Blues songs have some of the best titles. Albert King has Had You Told Like It Was (It Wouldn’t Be Like It Is), a version of the Sonny Thompson song steeped in the ever-popular blues subject of being lied to by a woman. The opening track on the second side features piano from Ike Turner, and by the time it gets to This Funny Feeling, the Lodge is filled yet again with the lovely sounds of big horns and female call-and-response sass. It’s Ooh-Ee Baby that really sets the foundation of greatness in this album. That tempo, that tone, that playing, that sadness – the epitome of the blues with a main lyric of ‘one of these days you’re gonna mess up and lie…and then you’ll skid on like a block of ice.’ If you’re a fan of Clapton, Gary Moore, SRV, or Hendrix, then having this debut album from Albert King in your collection is essential – all of those dudes come from here.
The second record is filled with older rare recording like a Bad Luck Blues and Be on Your Merry Way from 1953, as well as multiple different versions of songs from Big Blues. Overall, the collection is stellar from both an aesthetic packaging point of view and the fat riffage soaked in sadness in the music. I needed some
guitar, I was actually quite sad about the state of guitar music today. and it took one of the blues masters and his righteous fucking tone to snap me out of my own funk. I’ve heard it said my many blue players that the blues isn’t ever about making you feel sad, it’s the opposite of that. Those rich tones and stellar playing can only ever make you smile. Rock and roll needs more guitar players that stand tall like Albert King.