His sound was unique, a frosty, stinging attack with a blonde Fender Telecaster choked up with his capo nearly touching the pickup. Albert Collins was truly the Master of the Telecaster, with the chilliest touch to ever grace a fretboard. Collins’ career took off in ’78 with his Alligator debut Ice Pickin’. The ice was all in his fingers. Collins used no pick, getting his frosty sound fingerpicking his Tele.
Live At Rockpalast was filmed in Dortmund, Germany in 1980 with Collins at the height of his powers. The crowd doesn’t seem very excited when Collins’ name is announced, not do attendees at the long-running (since ’74) TV show taping get too whipped up over the first two numbers performed by the band without Collins. It’s not the band’s fault. It’s a tight unit, drummer Casey Jones on vocals for the opener, a “Sweet Home Chicago/Dust My Broom/ I’m Goin Down” medley. Saxophonist A.C. Reed performs his original “She’s Fine,” a Muddy-flavored offering with down-home lyrics concerning his woman who’s “built like a brick shipyard” and “loves me just like a dog.” Guitarist Marvin Jackson gets deep in the Mud while Reed and Jones harmonize soulfully. “Look out! We’re talkin’ ’bout the blues up in here,” Jones warns the audience as Collins strides onstage.
From the first note, you know it’s Collins, sharp and frosty on “Listen Here,” tightening up the tune with some muscular scatting.He chokes up to the 9th fret for “Cold Cold Feeling,” capo so far down the neck he barely has enough room to maneuver his huge mitts.His licks are chilly but not on full frost just yet. It’s mellow soul, Reed’s sax giving it a late night, back-alley feel.
Collins’ in-your-face delivery has the crowd pumped up by now, and he sprays ’em with a shower of icicles on “Skatin’/ Ice Pic,” in a call and response duel with Reed.
The guitarist brings the show’s first serious frost with “Brick,” warning his no-good baby that he’s gonna go upside her head: “I’m gonna chunk a brick atchoo,” he tells her, accompanying his message with stinging licks so cold they burn. Jones keeps the motor running like a top-of-the-line fridge, but Collins keeps kickin’ the door open and letting the cold out.
Collins backs off on the capo for “The Things I Used To Do,” barring only to his second fret for more soul and less ice. It still sounds like he’s picking with a clawhammer, but it’s just his steely fingertips.
His version of Little Johnnie Taylor’s “If You Love Me Like You Say” had just come out on Frostbite ,but you can already tell from the crowd reaction that this one is gonna have to be a mainstay of his sets from now on. There’s a blizzard blowing from his Tele, undermined with some serious funk from bassist Johnny B Gayden.
Gayden gets down even further on the 14-minute “Cold Cuts, string-snapping like Larry Graham. Collins has choked up again with his capo down to the 9th fret, his chilly licks rattling like hailstones around Reed’s JB’s-style fluid, flowing funk hornwork coupled with King Curtis sweaty soul.
Albert King cut “Angel Of Mercy” in ’72, and Collins’ version wouldn’t show up on record til a year after this concert. In his hands, there’s a slow chill creepin’ in, Collins’ icy hot licks serving up some low-down blues. Collins liked the tune so much he re-cut it again in ’99 with Robert Cray.
Collins’ signature tune, “Frosty,” sounds like the guitarist dumped all the ice trays on the floor at once, for a clattering, slippery surface Reed makes even more dangerous, heating it up with his frenzied honking. Collins ups the frost factor utilizing the 100-foot cord on his Tele-freezer, getting right in the faces of the Germans, their initial chilly response heated up to a boil as they clamor to lay hands on the guitarist. Collins whips ’em up even more with some behind-the-head guitar acrobatics, his Telecaster cluckin’ and howlin’ as he flash-freezes ’em for nearly 15 minutes.
Like all Rockpalast product, the images are crisp and the sound is excellent on the DVD and both CDs in the package. It’s a great performance from one of the coolest bluesmen of all time.