Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Live Wire, Blues Power: the mighty Albert King


As I've written before, interviewing the mighty blues guitarist Albert King during my first months as Guitar World's Managing Editor way back in 1991 was a tremendous thrill.  Twenty years later it remains a definitive career highlight. Please go back and read that interview and my intro to it to understand just how much Albert meant to me.

I have also written before about the new, rather amazing stash of videos being posted on Wolfgang's Vault. Well, this one just took my breath away. It's Albert King live at the Fillmore West in 1970, playing "Blues Power." It captures everything that drew me to Albert and still makes him such a towering figure to me. I would have been awed to see a performance of this song at this time at this venue filmed on a shaky handheld, but this is a professionally recorded, multi-camera shoot.

Albert is so in command of his music, his voice, instrument, his band. He is completely in the moment. His playing is pithy, deep, and soulful. His tone is manly; he is pushing the gain quite a bit for a 1970 blues player and riding the edge of feedback. And his singing is just as good, as is his stage presence and pattern. I just love it all.

The album that got me hooked on Albert KIng was Live Wire/Blues Power, which was recorded in 1968 at the same Fillmore. It includes a similar, though extended take on "Blues Power." I put this album onto a cassette tape and I made a couple of cross-country drives with this being one of just a handful of tapes that I listened to over and over. This particular song always just resonated in some unspeakable way to me. It made me crank the volume and lose myself in every note. It made me want to know more. It made me happy to be alive. it made me want go out and kick ass in whatever I did. All of which is to say it stirred my soul. 

I’m not the same yearning kid I was when I first listened to it. I’m a 44-year-old father of three prepping for his kid’s bar mitzvah, a published author and a decent musician myself. Whatever.

All these years later, actually seeing the man play the song in the same place, with the same arrangement  in the same time frame evokes all the same feelings inside me.  


-Gregg Allman on Big in China: "What a romp. After writing about music for years, Alan Paul walked the walk, preaching the blues in China. Anyone who doubts that music is bigger than words needs to read this great tale.”