Albert King – Live ’69

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Recorded at a single show on May 29, 1969, in Madison, WI’s 400-seat club The Cue, these tapes were first released in 2003. The performance finds Albert King, who had just turned 46, arguably at his career peak. Even though there are just five tracks, it’s enough to understand why he remains one of electric postwar blues’ most seminal figures. Since this shares no songs with Live Wire/Blues Power, which was recorded a year earlier, and features concert versions of “Crosscut Saw,” “Personal Manager,” and “As the Years Go Passing By” from his legendary Born Under a Bad Sign album, it’s an important document. King’s in excellent form too, ripping into the tunes with edgy energy, even if many of his solos and licks will be familiar to blues listeners. The well-written liner notes neglect to mention who is in his backing band, but the group fades into the background anyway through a poor mix that relegates the drums to sounding like trash cans. Thankfully King is front and center, and although the audio is inferior to the Fillmore West shows documented on the Live Wire and Wednesday/Thursday Night In San Francisco albums, it’s clear enough to get a feel for how powerful the guitarist could be, even in front of a small crowd. At over 17 minutes, “Please Come Back to Me” is the set’s longest and most intense track as King pulls out all of his tricks on a rare rendition of a song found on only a few discs. It alone is worth the price of this album, which, with crisper sound, would be the guitarist’s best live show from this period. Even with its abbreviated length, a few bum notes, and a barely audible band, this is prime King and an essential acquisition for all fans.

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