In 1972, Albert King joined forces with some of the leading figures in the legendary Stax soul sound to create one of his most celebrated releases: “When Albert King gave us I’ll Play the Blues for You,” music journalist and historian Bill Dahl says, “he fulfilled his promise and then some.”
Now, the Concord Music Group will revisit the project as part of its Stax Remasters series. With enhanced 24-bit remastering by Joe Tarantino, the reissue — due on May 22, 2012 — will also include four previously unreleased bonus tracks, and newly written liner notes by Dahl.
Recording with 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 — King would fashion a “brilliant mixture of pile-driving blues and hot Memphis soul grooves that dented Billboard’s pop album survey at No. 140,” Dahl says. “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 eight-song sequence, a stripped-down version of “Burn Down the Bridge,” minus the horns; and a newly discovered take on the title track with a different horn attangement, and no spoken interlude. A highlight on this version of “I’ll Play the Blues for You” is “King playing right over an elegant sax solo,” Dahl says. “He really tears it up on the extended vamp out, spinning chorus after chorus of hair-raising licks.” The remaining pair of bonus songs include the previously unissued “I Need a Love” (described by Dahl as “an upbeat scorcher”) and “Albert’s Stomp” (“a funk-soaked instrument”).
Guitarist Michael Toles, bassist James Alexander, and drummer Willie Hall were members of both the Bar-Kays and the Movement. Also featured are the Memphis Horns, featuring longtime Stax mainstays Wayne Jackson on trumpet and Andrew Love on tenor saxophone.
“This album was originally recorded and released in 1972, at the very end of an era when a variety of musical genres — blues, rock, pop, soul and funk, to name a few — could still coexist on a single radio station playlist or on a single tour bill,” says Chris Clough, producer of this reissue. “Albert King was versatile enough, and had a broad enough appeal in the early ’70s, to pull in audiences that were dialed into every one of these styles. He successfully walked a tightrope that connected so many different kinds of music and so many different audiences. This versatility is partly why he’s so influential four decades after this recording was originally issued.”