Review: Albert King – I’ll Play the Blues for You (Stax, 1972/2012)
King first developed his resume as a bluesman in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, recording singles for Parrot, Bobbin, King and Coun-Tree; but he really defined himself to the public with his move to Memphis and signing to Stax in 1966. Initially paired with Booker T. & the MGs, King recorded signature tunes that included “Crosscut Saw” and “Born Under a Bad Sign,” but starting in the early ‘70s, he latched onto the Stax soul groove with this 1972 release. Backed by the Bar-Kays and Isaac Hayes’ Movement, King’s music got a strong dose of funk., particularly in the lanky bottom end of James Alexander’s bass, Willie Hall’s snare and kick drum, and the sophisticated charts blown by the Memphis Horns. King’s long, bending notes added an original flavor to the Stax sound, and on a remake of Motown’s “I’ll Be Doggone” he stretches out the blue notes for all he’s worth. The album’s title track, cut into two pieces for release as a single, became King’s life theme and cracked the R&B Top 40. The 2012 reissue of this title adds four previously unreleased bonus tracks that include alternate versions of “I’ll Play the Blues for You” and an intense, hornless-version take of “Don’t Burn Down the Bridge.” The reissue closes with a superb guitar-and-organ instrumental, “Albert’s Stomp,” that fades out just as it really gets cooking. The set’s 12-page booklet includes liner notes by Bill Dahl and Tom Wheeler.