Four Kings (Part 3): Albert's Heat
"Get Out My Life Woman" (Allen Toussaint)
Albert King, from New Orleans Heat, Tomato, 1978/1989
Albert King recorded New Orleans Heat at Sea-Saint Studios with Allen Toussaint producing in 1978. I got the LP, which had already been cut out, in the early 1980’s; and I bought the 1989 CD issue, too, playing cuts on my radio show from time to time. Although I don’t think this is a desert island disk, the album captures an interesting meeting of a Memphis area blues master, who had his own unique funk sensibility, and some of New Orleans best session players*, including two of the Meters, and songwriters. It is also notable as the last credited session I know of for the great Charles ‘Hungry’ Williams, who played drums on five of the nine cuts. His career went back to the later 1950’s, when he took over the first-call drum chair in New Orleans, after Earl Palmer left for Los Angeles.
Or course, our feature track, “Get Out My Life Woman”, is a cover of the Toussaint-penned classic originally ridden high in the charts by Lee Dorsey in 1966. On this re-make, Toussaint moves the song out of the slow plaintive funk mode, allowing ‘Hungry’ to up the tempo a bit and give it an infectious, swinging syncopation that the players lock in. That it feels so good really works against the subject matter of the lyrics; but, what can you say? In New Orleans, groove trumps blues. If this bothered Albert, he doesn’t show it, delivering a comfortably relaxed vocal, while bending the strings expressively. In a nice touch, Toussaint picks up on the guitar as another voice and has one of the background singers double a line in the solo. And I dig the Memphis way King says “climb” in the line, “Get off my ladder, woman, I’ve got to ‘clam’ up to the top”. So down home.
On the album, King redoes several of his earlier Stax sides, including the classic “Born Under A Bad Sign”, which is given a good ride by drummer June Gardner and the band. Other outstanding tracks are Leo Nocentelli’s deceptively titled funk vamp, “I Got The Blues”, (which, as good as it is, clocks in at nine minutes and should have been reduced by half) and Toussaint’s strutting truism, “We All Wanna Boogie”. The only space holders on the album for me are the well-done but out of place ballad, “The Very Thought of You”, and Larry Hamilton’s composition, “The Feeling”, that is just a rip of “The Thrill Is Gone”. One of Larry’s funkier numbers could have made the record extra spicey.
This foray into the heat and damp of the Deep South was one of Albert King’s last studio projects, although he continued to perform until his death in 1992. Although it didn’t light any fires with the public, I’m glad Albert gave this collaboration a shot, leaving us more tunes worth remembering from the legendary, and now abandoned home of Sansu Productions on Clematis Avenue.
*The players on New Orleans Heat (Note: the horn section is unknow):
Albert King – vocal, electric guitar
Leo Nocentelli – electric guitar
Allen R. Toussaint – acoustic piano, 88 RMI Echoplex
Wardell Quezergue – electric piano
Robert Dabon – electric piano, RMI
George Porter, Jr. – bass
Charles Williams, June Gardner, Leroy Breaux – drums
Kenneth Williams - percussion