In early 1969, the 45-year-old Albert King was back in Stax Records Studios, located in an old movie theatre at 926 East McLemore Avenue in South Memphis. He was there along with Booker T Jones, Steve Cropper, Duck Dunn, and Al Jackson Jr to record what would become his third album, and his first LP proper, Years Gone By.
The four-man backing group are, of course, better known as Booker T & The MG’s, and their cohesion and natural affinity underpins this easy rolling blues album, providing the perfect musical bed over which Albert projects his fabulous guitar and voice.
Stax released just one single from the album, the laidback and sultry “Drowning On Dry Land,” and while it works really well in the context of the album, it was not destined to pick up enough radio plays to drive it into the bestseller list. A far better choice of single would have been the Homer Banks, Allen Jones, and James Cross-penned “If The Washing Don’t Get You, The Rinsing Will.” The songwriters turned out a number of hits for Stax, and this could have been another.
Another Banks/Jones composition is “Heart Fixing Business,” and it too is a strong song, as is the excellent “Cockroach.” Years Gone By also includes two King originals, “Wrapped Up In Love Again” and “You Threw Your Love On Me Too Strong,” with the former opening the album with a flourish.
There are also two outstanding covers on the album: a take on Chester Burnett’s (aka Howlin’ Wolf’s) “Killing Floor” alongside one of the blues’ great lyrical numbers, Elmore James’ “The Sky Is Crying.”
Years Gone By made the Billboard album chart on May 24, 1969, and went on to peak at No. 133. In so doing, it became Albert King’s best-ever performing album, in terms of chart position. With all its Albert King hallmarks, any connoisseur of the blues will love this record – in particular the raw power of his guitar.
As Joe Walsh once said: “Albert King could blow Eddie Van Halen clean off stage with his amp just on Standby!” Who are we to disagree?