By Damian Fanelli
Albert King's classic 1972 album, I’ll Play the Blues for You, will be released May 22 as part of Concord Music's Stax Remasters series.
The album has undergone 24-bit remastering by Joe Tarantino and features four previously unreleased bonus tracks, plus new liner notes by music journalist and roots music historian Bill Dahl.
In addition to King’s guitar and vocal work, the album features a rhythm section made up of members of the Bar-Kays and the Movement — the former a new lineup following the tragic Otis Redding plane crash that wiped out most of the original band, and the latter group Isaac Hayes’s funk-driven outfit, with guitarist Michael Toles, bassist and Bar-Kays co-founder James Alexander, and drummer Willie Hall members of both bands.
Rounding out the backup unit is the Memphis Horns, featuring longtime Stax mainstays Wayne Jackson on trumpet and Andrew Love on tenor saxophone.
Recorded in Memphis in 1972 and released in the fall of that same year, I’ll Play the Blues for You “was a typically brilliant mixture of pile-driving blues and hot Memphis soul grooves that dented Billboard’s pop album survey at #140,” says Dahl in his liner notes. “Producers Allen Jones and Henry Bush kept King contemporary while simultaneously emphasizing his inherent strengths. The result was one of Albert’s best long-players.”
Two of the unreleased tracks are alternate takes of songs in the main sequence. “A stripped-down ‘Don’t Burn Down the Bridge’ minus the horns crackles with excitement,” says Dahl, “while a freshly discovered alternate of ‘I’ll Play the Blues for You’ sports a contrasting horn arrangement and has no spoken interlude yet stands quite tall on its own, even with King playing right over an elegant sax solo (he really tears it up on the extended vamp out, spinning chorus after chorus of hair-raising licks”).
The other two of the four bonus tracks are “splendid additions to King’s Stax canon,” says Dahl. “It’s hard to understand why ‘I Need a Love’ laid unissued; the upbeat scorcher comes complete with full-blast horns, Albert’s smoky vocal bearing an ominous edge. ‘Albert’s Stomp’ is a funk-soaked instrumental that finds King working Lucy [his trademark flying V guitar] over fatback organ and Toles’s wah-wah.”