“Born Under a Bad Sign” by Albert King (1967)
One of the criteria I’m using for Harry’s Hundred is no compilations.
Unfortunately, that excludes a lot of work from the masters of the blues. I have plenty of collections by the likes of Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and B.B. King, but for the most part they pull together classic singles rather than being proper albums.
But I certainly can go with “Born Under a Bad Sign,” Albert King’s Stax Records debut, cut with the cream of that label’s musicians: Steve Cropper on guitar, Donald “Duck” Dunn on bass; Booker T. Jones on organ; and Al Jackson Jr. on drums. You’ll recognize thagt quartet as the classic lineup of Booker T. & the MG’s, but joining the sessions were the liks of Isaac Hayes on piano and a horn section of Wayne Jackson, Andrew Love and Joe Arnold.
Albert and his Gibson Flying V are the stars, though, and the man and his guitar put on a performance that helped bring the blues into the musical mainstream. As Sean McDevitt wrote for Lifestyle in 2007, the album “not only directly influenced legions of guitar players who studied its every subtlety and nuance, but it would changed the face of American music, modernizing the blues at a time when albums like the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Jimi Hendrix’s Are You Experienced? were galvanizing the face of rock.”
Many of the tracks have become blues-rock standards, starting with Cream’s 1968 cover of the title track. “The Hunter” and “Oh, Pretty Woman” also show up often in various artists’ repertoires, and the nascent Santana performed a killer version of “As the Years Go Passing By,” appearing on an archival release of the band’s December 1968 concerts at the Fillmore West.
“Born Under a Bad Sign” is in the Blues Hall of Fame as a 1985 inductee, and Albert King (1923-92), of course, also is a member.