ALBERT KING Born Under A Bad Sign (Sundazed)
Originally released in 1967, “Born Under A Bad Sign” is one accomplished platter. King wraps his slightly slurred, smoky vocals and clucking, diving guitar style around some exemplary material, and Stax house band Booker T. & The M.G.’s breathe life into some expansive arrangements. Albert’s not a prolific songwriter: he scores three credits here, but, well, Otis Redding’s only got his name against three of the tracks on “Otis Blue”, and it hardly diminishes that record. In fact, “Born Under A Bad Sign” might be to the blues what “Otis Blue” is to soul, each a paradoxically polished-but-gritty trailblazer for its genre.
The influence this album wields is close to incalculable. Eric Clapton’s covered its opening two tracks (“Born Under A Bad Sign” and “Crosscut Saw”) in some or other of his configurations, and Duane Allman allegedly lifted the riff to “Layla” from “As The Years Go Passing By”. Free and Led Zeppelin both drew from “The Hunter”, the former covering it whole, the latter incorporating it magpie-style into “How Many More Times”. In such exalted company the only disappointment is that “Oh, Pretty Woman” turns out to be something other than the Roy Orbison song.
“I Almost Lost My Mind” ladles out slow motion melancholy, with Joe Arnold’s flute playing seemingly incongruous on a blues album from a pre-Jethro Tull time. “Personal Manager” is perhaps the most riveting of the songs here that haven’t already worked their way firmly into the canon, blessed with a scorching, siren-toned King solo. “The Very Thought Of You” betrays a softer edge to his sound, Booker T. Jones’ piano trickling melodiously in the distance.
“Born Under A Bad Sign” reads like a lexicon of electric blues. When the sleevenotes claim “It’s virtually impossible to cite a more important or influential blues album from the latter half of the 1960s” it’s no hollow hyperbole. Well, maybe “Blues Breakers” might be in with a shout, but that’s about it.
Sundazed’s vinyl reissue offers their usual good-not-great but high value pressing quality, although the extra tracks plonked at the end of each side – mono singles sides, both – rather disrupt the flow.