Artist: Albert Collins
Album: Live At Rockpalast
Label: Made in Germany Music
Release Date: 02/12/2016
Ever the philosopher, guitarist Carlos Santana once proclaimed, “A man’s tone is his face.” Santana’s words ring especially true when describing the late bluesman Albert Collins. Beneath Collins’ tough, weathered features were a mischievous grin and sparks of joy. The searing tone he wrung from his Telecaster hit like an uppercut, yet every note revealed a deep love of performing. Collins’ sudden passing in 1993 left a hole in the modern blues scene that’s never been filled.
Live at Rockpalast, a previously unreleased set performed in Germany, is a wonderful gift to blues fans. Recorded in 1980, the set features Collins and his touring band at the height of their powers. In addition to a rock solid rhythm section, the Icebreakers featured the incomparable AC Reed on saxophone. Reed’s soulful, melodic playing was the perfect foil for Collins’ voice and guitar. Artists like Albert King and Little Milton may have pioneered the melding of blues with soul and funk rhythms, but Albert Collins and the Icebreakers further refined the mix. Funky workouts like “If You Love Me Like You Say” and “Cold Cuts” showcase the Icebreakers’ spandex-tight grooves.
Collins truly came into his own when playing one of his signature, slow blues tunes. “Cold Cold Feeling” and “Angel of Mercy” highlight his extraordinary sense of pacing and dynamics. He approached a solo like a prizefighter closing in on his opponent, starting with a few well-placed jabs and slowly working up towards the knockout punch. When he unleashed his trademark combo of deep bends and piercing vibrato, it was a sound unlike anything else in the blues.
Albert Collins will always have a special place in the hearts of listeners who – like this writer – discovered the blues during its late ’80s revival. For those unfamiliar with Collins’ music, Live at Rockpalast is a great place to start.