If you want to understand what makes Albert King a much loved guitar player and purveyor of the blues then look no further than Live Wire/Blues Power his 1968 release. Recorded live at the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco in June 1968 it is a record that is full of King’s searing guitar and his unique vocals.
King was a regular at the Fillmore, playing there probably more times than any other blues artist. He played three nights at the gig from 25 to 27 June , with support from Loading Zone and Rain. Loading Zone was a local band who released their debut album in 1968, but they never rose above the role of a support band; Rain are lost to the mists of time.
The opening number is a cover of Herbie Hancock’s ‘Watermelon Man’ that Albert turns into a funky fanfare for what is to follow. It’s followed by one of King’s defining numbers, the soaring Blues Power which features some of his finest searing guitar, accompanied by a trademark homily; Stax released it in edited form as a single. This is one of the four self penned numbers on the record and not to be confused with the song of the same name written by Eric Clapton and Leon Russell.
‘Night Stomp’ that follows is co-written by King, Raymond Jackson and Al Jackson Jr. Al produced the album and was the drummer and a founding member of Booker T & The MGs. Raymond, no relation to Al, was also from Memphis and wrote many songs for Stax Records.
‘Blues Before Sunrise’, another King original, is the epitome of a slow blues burner, full of fire and ice, one of those numbers to play people who may have some lingering doubt that the blues are for them. A cover of BB King’s ‘Please Love Me’ follows, with its traditional, ‘dust my broom’ riff. Throughout the band of Willie James Exon-Guitar, James Washington-Bass, Rooselvelt Pointer-Bass, and Theotis Morgan-Drums support King in the perfect way, giving him the space to play.
The set closes with King’s ‘Look Out’ with it’s fast ‘walking bass’ line it shows why Albert King was so beloved by the San Francisco rock crowd who adored Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger service, The Steve Miller Band and the Dead…all of them took influence from the blues and Albert King was the real deal.
There’s not a blues guitarist that has not copped King’s licks and fallen under his spell, in part because this became Albert’s first album to make the Billboard chart on 16 November 1968; it only made No.150 but that’s not the point.
Play it LOUD and relish a night with Albert King at the Fillmore.
Explore the Albert King Artist Page.