Albert King - Born Under A Bad Sign album review

Sign of the times

Cover art for Albert King - Born Under A Bad Sign album

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The Stax 60 campaign is celebrating the shape-shifting Memphis record label’s diamond jubilee by releasing vinyl replicas of classic albums by Otis Redding, Sam & Dave and other soul legends, along with this seminal 1967 record by singer/guitarist Albert King that rescued the blues for modern times.

At that time, blues was being edged out by soul as the most popular music in America’s black communities. Known as the Velvet Bulldozer due to his smooth voice and hefty size, King had been recording since the 1950s, including 1962’s The Big Blues debut album. Stax put him in their studio with their superlative in-house band Booker T. And The MG’s (who included guitarist Steve Cropper) and recorded singles including Laundromat Blues, Crosscut Saw and Born Under A Bad Sign. The latter, written by Booker T and William Bell, became an instant classic, covered by Cream, Hendrix and countless blues artists. The song also became the title track of an album credited with changing the face of American music, thanks to the magical combination of King’s powerful guitar sting and the insidious soul swingof the MG’s, who also wrote The Hunter (covered by Free, Blue Cheer and Ike & Tina Turner), and it still packs a lean punch.

Kris Needs is a British journalist and author, known for writings on music from the 1970s onwards. Previously secretary of the Mott The Hoople fan club, he became editor of ZigZag in 1977 and has written biographies of stars including Primal Scream, Joe Strummer and Keith Richards. He's also written for MOJO, Record Collector, Classic Rock, Prog, Electronic Sound, Vive Le Rock and Shindig!