Albert King “Live”

I like this double live 1978 Albert King blues on Tomato Records record as an OBJECT– I don’t think I have anything else on Tomato– and I love how the liner notes (by Robert Palmer) start on the FRONT cover, continue on the inside (it opens up) and then conclude on the back. Along with a number of haphazard black and white photographs. The sad thing is I can’t really listen to it. It’s the kind of blues that makes me think of a bunch of executives getting off work in Chicago and going to a blues bar, drinking martinis with their ties loosened and their suit jackets slung over one arm. It’s not the fault of the blues, and certainly not Albert King, but I’m sorry, it’s how I feel.

The worst thing is when the horns are playing energetically, which sounds so lifeless to me. If you’re going to have horns, it’s best to hire horn players who smoke, so they have something to do while they’re not playing, which should be most of the time. At best, and this goes for all blues, I like when it becomes repetitious and trancelike, to the point of becoming almost abstract. I think that is more likely to happen when you hear blues live. This, however, is not the same– it’s a “live album”– one of the worst ideas in the history of recorded music.

I was trying to think what compelled me to buy this record back in the late 1970s, not being much of a blues fan. I think this was when I was discussing our record collections with my friend Brad, and we both realized we had NO records by black people! It was a shocking revelation! Why, we tried to figure out, was that? (I’m sure it had a lot to do with us reading Rolling Stone, and going from glam rock to “classical rock” to punk rock, and being mostly interested in what was current.) We set out to buy some records buy black recording artists. I liked blues a little then, and I bought this Albert King record, as well as a couple by Muddy Waters which I liked much better. A couple of years later I would discover James Brown, as well as start buying older, and used, records (after moving to the big city).


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