Music Review: Albert King - Born Under a Bad Sign (Remastered and Expanded)

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Part of Concord Music Group’s Stax Remasters series, Albert King’s 1967 Born Under a Bad Sign has been reissued with five previously unreleased bonus tracks and new liner notes. Simply an indispensable blues classic, the album features King’s distinctive lead guitar and deeply soulful vocals backed by the Stax house band, Booker T. and the MGs.

From the opening title track to the bluesed-up version of the Great American Songbook standard “The Very Thought of You,” Born Under a Bad Sign deserves the numerous prestigious accolades (including a Grammy Hall of Fame award) it has racked up over the years. The Memphis Horns support the main ensemble with perfect subtlety, staying mostly in the background. Everything about the backing, in fact, seems purposely restrained to showcase the sizzling guitar leads.

Five previously unreleased have been unearthed for this edition, including take one of the unforgettable title track. The first take of “Crosscut Saw” shows up as well, with King’s lead work slightly more tentative than the masterful licks on the album version. “The Hunter,” an insistent blues tune penned by the MGs with Carl Wells, makes a repeat appearance as well. The brisker 15th take of “Personal Manager” is the last alternate album track, a song King co-wrote with David Porter (who co-wrote the Sam & Dave classics “Hold On, I’m Comin’” and “Soul Man” with Isaac Hayes).

Perhaps the best bonus track is “Untitled Instrumental,” a juicy little nugget that gives us two minutes of tasty King solos. Born Under a Bad Sign is an album of many pleasures, but never more so than now. The CD booklet couples Bill Dahl’s new essay with Michael Point’s notes from the 2002 reissue. For good measure, the significantly briefer (and more hype-oriented) original liners notes by Deanie Parker are included as well.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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