Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Albert COLLINS - Ice Pickin 1978
Until this album was released in 1978, Albert Collins had been a journeyman Texas bluesman, little known and unrecorded for six years. His guitar playing here won him a new generation of fans, and set the stage for the popularity he enjoyed until his death. His clustered, sustained, choked, and bent notes, played with his thumb and fingers, set a generation of pickers agog. The tone was piercing; the timing impeccable. Collins' vocals were never quite as strong, but it scarcely mattered as he was the man for whom the electric guitar might have been invented. The eight songs on this set include "When the Welfare Turns Its Back on You," and several jaw-dropping instrumentals.
By Colin Escott.
Albert Collins had been recording since the late 1950s, but until the late 1970s he'd never attracted much of an American audience outside of blues circles. Luckily that changed in 1977 when he was signed to the newly formed Chicago-based Alligator Records.
Co-produced by Bruce Iglauer, Richard McLeese and Dick Shurman, "Ice Pickin'" marked Collins' first studio set in six years. The layoff was apparently quite beneficial. Backed by a first rate band, Collins returned to the recording scene with what may have been his strongest and most consistent studio collection. While instrumentals like the title track and 'Avalanche' aptly displayed Collins' mastery of the telecaster and alternative tunings (Steve Ray Vaughan's debt to this man is beyond calculation), to my ears the biggest surprises were Collins' voice and his sense of humor. His vocal performances were simply great on tracks like 'Honey Hush!' and 'Cold, Cold Feeling' . Hard to believe the man had a thing about his voice for many years ... He also exhibited a mean sense of humor on material such as 'When the Welfare Turns Its Back On You', 'Master Charge' and 'Conversation with Collins' - a great slice of talking blues with a moral that you shouldn't let your wife have a night on the town with friends. For goodness sake, even rock critic Robert Christgau gave this release an A.!!!
Only "Frostbite" can challenge this in Collins' catalog, and without "Snowed In" that next-best Alligator release wouldn't even have a fighting chance. "Ice Pickin'" is simply one of the best modern blues guitar records.
Collins wasn't known as a great singer but he steps to the plate surprisingly well here, and he would stay confident at the mic from here on in. And you know that stinging, icy guitar tone is slung all over the place. Slow-burning, moody blues? Got 'em: "Cold, Cold Feeling," "When the Welfare Turns its Back on You." Nice instrumentals? Check: "Ice Pick," "Avalanche." Woman problems? "Honey, Hush." Credit woes? Yup: "Master Charge," its name long out of date but its sentiment understood.
Then there's "Conversation with Collins," a funny, nearly nine-minute soliloquy with speech and guitar. Probably corny, but absolutely delightful.
Albert Collins collections start here.
Aron Burton- Bass
Casey Jones- Drums
Larry Burton- Guitar
Albert Collins- Guitar, Vocals
Alan Batts- Keyboards
Chuck Smith- Saxophone [Baritone]
A.C. Reed- Saxophone [Tenor]
A1. Talking Woman Blues 4:28
A2. When The Welfare Turns Its Back On You 5:26
A3. Ice Pick 3:08
A4. Cold, Cold Feeling 5:19
B1. Too Tired 3:00
B2. Master Charge 5:12
B3. Conversation With Collins 8:52
B4. Avalanche 2:39