Outside of B.B. King, Albert King (1923-1992) is undoubtedly one of the all-time most imitated and influential blues guitar players.With an immediately identifiable sound and style, Albert is a primitive in the very best sense of the word. To the casual listener, it may sound like he is playing the same solo over and over. This is actually not true, as any guitar player who has tried to play like Albert King will humbly confess. What Albert has always done is to play spontaneously with a free-wheeling vocabulary of rhythmic attack, melodic phrasing and bends (actually, pulls. The left-handed Albert played a right-handed guitar flipped over and not restrung, meaning that instead of bending the strings up and toward himself, he usually pulled them down and away. This was a contributor to his unique sound and take-no-prisoners approach to soloing.).
Everchanging and difficult to notate, Albert’s solos on such classic songs as “Born Under A Bad Sign”, “Blues Power”, and of course “Cross-Cut Saw” remain the Rosetta Stone of blues solos. The influence of his “Cross-Cut Saw” solo can be heard as far back as Eric Clapton’s solo on Cream’s “Strange Brew” (1967). And of course, Stevie Ray Vaughn constantly declared Albert to be his personal guitar hero, doing whatever he could to help raise Albert’s profile among album buyers and concertgoers.
Somewhat taken for granted, I think, is Albert’s singing. Warm, almost crooning, and always completely powerful and soulful, when Albert sang “I’ll Play The Blues For You”, there was never any question whether he meant it or not. His sense of humor came through regularly as well, on such classics as “ Laundromat Blues”, “Flat Tire”, ”Personal Manager”, and many others.
It would be difficult to pick one solo and say “ this is The One”. For me, it’s always gotten down to two of them: “Cross-Cut Saw” and “Blues Power”. But, you could also take just about any four minute Albert King selection and spend your life trying to “get” what the hell he’s doing!
Albert never landed the big dough, and ended up somewhat bitter as a result. It’s hard to blame him for that, given the level of genius that he brought to the world, and the number of blues and rock players who have cleaned up by slicing and dicing Albert’s trademark style, without bothering to acknowledge him………….