Albert Collins: Funky Blues, Live 1973 View larger

Albert Collins: Funky Blues, Live 1973

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Like a million-watt incandescent bulb, the Master of the Telecaster, Albert Collins dominated Texas blues.


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  1. Gonna Walk With You Baby
  2. Funk Jam
  3. Stormy Monday
  4. Get Down
  5. Funk Jam 2
  6. Backstroke
  7. Conversation With Collins
  8. Can’t You See What You’re Doing To Me 
  9. Frosty
  10. Get Your Business Straight (1971 Live unknown venue)

Albert Collins Live at Joe’s Place, Cambridge Mas. 1/17/73

Albert Collins - guitar, vocals
BC Hill - bass
Mark David - drums
Dave Maxwell - piano

Like a million-watt incandescent bulb, Albert Collins set countless stages ablaze with his reverb-drenched Texas blues.

The Master of the Telecaster titled several of his classic instrumentals in an ice-laden mode (“Don’t Lose Your Cool,” “Sno-Cone,” “Frost Bite,” “Thaw-Out”), yet no postwar bluesman cranked it up any hotter. Trailing hundreds of feet of amp cord in his electrifying wake, Albert usually climaxed his thrilling sets with a marathon treatment of his signature theme “Frosty.” He’d hop offstage and snake his way through the assembled throng, leading everyone outside even in frigid weather to absorb his laser-beam licks in the fresh air while his band hung back to stoke the sizzling groove.

Born in a log cabin in Leona, Texas, Collins mostly grew up in Houston’s blues-fertile Third Ward. “I was listening to John Lee Hooker and Lightnin’ Hopkins at the particular time when I first learned how to start playing guitar,” said the late Collins (Lightnin’ was his cousin). Utilizing an unorthodox D-minor tuning that made chording difficult, Albert’s sharp staccato attack was rendered exclusively with his fingers. “I tried to use a pick, but I don’t know, it seemed like it was a handicap to me,” he said. A capo was also part of his arsenal. “After I got around Gatemouth Brown, I got hooked on that clamp,” said Collins. “It gave me a good sound.”

Albert debuted on wax in 1958 with “Freeze” for saxist Henry Hayes’ Kangaroo label. Albert’s minor-key throbber “Defrost,” first out on Frank Scott’s Great Scott logo, did well enough regionally to be picked up by Hall-Way Records in 1963 and then Mercury’s Smash subsidiary. Bill Hall and Jack Clement’s TCF-Hall imprint unleashed the piledriving “Frosty” the next year. “When I got with Hall and Clement, they told me, ‘Well, man, we’ll just keep you in the icebox, so everything we put out on you will be pertaining to cold,’” said Collins.

Canned Heat’s Bob Hite helped Albert snag a three-album deal with Imperial in 1969. He still sang sparingly. “Instrumentals sold in them days,” Albert said. “That’s the reason why I never was a singer.” And instrumentals dominated Albert’s set list when he ignited the crowd at Joe’s Place in Cambridge, Mass. on January 17, 1973. That show is the source for all but one of this collection’s tracks. Backed by a half-L.A./half-Boston-based rhythm section that included young keyboardist David Maxwell, Collins threw down a ton of funk, digging deep into his bag of Fender tricks for barrages of knifing riffs.

But Albert didn’t avoid the mic altogether. He paid elegant tribute to Lone Star guitar legend T-Bone Walker with a heartfelt “Stormy Monday,” unfurled an exultantly downbeat “Can’t You See What You’re Doing To Me,” romped through a joyous, Guitar Slim-rooted “Gonna Walk With You Baby,” and revisited the hilarious lights-out “Conversation With Collins” from his Imperial encore set, actually making his axe talk dirty!

Collins saved his most stratospheric energy levels that evening for extended reprises of his houserockers “Frosty” and “Backstroke.” But the true wonder of this disc is the savage “Get Your Business Straight,” Albert’s only R&B charter for Bill Szymczyk’s short-lived Tumbleweed label in 1972. Culled from a ‘71 show at a noticeably larger venue, this pulverizing live rendition, clocking in at more than nine minutes, boasts a load of truly astonishing soloing.Fully embracing blues stardom in 1978 after Alligator Records produced his highly acclaimed Ice Pickin’ album, Albert remained a major draw until his untimely 1993 death. But it’s a safe bet that anyone lucky enough to be at Joe’s when he cut these songs knew that Albert Collins’ overdue ascension to blues’ uppermost echelon was already underway.

—Bill Dahl