CD Reissue Review: Albert King – Born Under a Bad Sign (Stax, 1967/2013)
In a career that stretched more than forty years, blues guitarist and singer Albert King waxed a lot of fine material, but none finer than this 1967 collection for Stax. “Collection,” rather than “album,” as this set was the culmination of a number of individual sessions that had previously been released as singles. So while there wasn’t a tight set of dates focused on recording a long player, there are several elements that turned the singles into a coherent statement. First was the combination of King, Booker T & The MGs, the Memphis Horns and the Stax studio. The deep southern grooves of the MGs provided King the perfect bed upon which to lay his intense guitar work, and the horn section added both atmosphere and sizzle. A final session netted five of the album’s tracks, and these knit together perfectly with the singles. The final lineup featured many of King’s hallmarks, including “Born Under a Bad Sign,” “Crosscut Saw, “The Hunter” and “Laundromat Blues.” The album made a huge splash among electric guitarists in ’67 and ’68, and has continued to be influential ever since. The 2013 reissue adds five bonus tracks to the album’s original lineup, four alternate takes and an untitled instrumental, all remastered by Joe Tarantino. The 16-page booklet includes insightful new liner notes by Bill Dahl alongside Michael Point’s notes from the 2002 reissue and Deanie Parker’s original 1967 cover notes. The extra tracks are worth hearing, but it’s hard to improve upon perfection, which the original album remains to this day.
And if you’ve never seen it, check out this live version of “Born Under a Bad Sign,” recorded with Stevie Ray Vaughan for the Canadian television program In Session: