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ALBERT COLLINS Live At Montreux 1992
Eagle Vision (2008)
Master of the Stratocaster in his element... Albert Collins

It's a long held dictum that rock stars sells more albums when they are dead than alive. If you examine that notion in the context of changing technology it readily becomes apparent that crossover blues artists like the late Albert Collins have more product on the shelf now than was the case at the time of either of these two concert recordings.

In Albert's case it's particularly ironic for, aside from Buddy Guy, there can be few blues guitarists who have been more underrepresented in their time than Albert. As Michael Heatley's liner notes correctly note it was first Canned Heat's Bob Hite and later Bruce Iglauer's Alligator records that helped bring a bigger audience to the Master of the Stratocaster.

Both Montreux festival appearances are separated by 13 years and show just how influential Collin's use of sustain, tone and thumb picking was in the rock blues field. Never afraid to take his time and play one note where others might cram in ten, Albert was indeed the king of cool.

And despite the slightly botched intro by shaky emcee and fellow guitarist Peter Thoennes, Albert calmly walks on stage puts down his towel and for all the world sets out his own parameters taking his band through a mix of shuffles boogie and blues, all topped by his incisive notes, some impassioned vocals, and above all a sense of dynamics.

This is no more so than on the slow blues 'Lights Are On (But Nobody's Home)', a slow blues that he infuses with both raw passion, chilling dynamics while allowing the horn section to embellish the gaps.

On the lowdown 'Too Many Dirty Dishes' he looks over to his fellow guitarist and shouts out, 'take your time son', which is exactly what Albert was brilliant at doing. Nowhere is this better demonstrated than when he has a conversation with his guitar and brings the number down to the barely audible. It's a technique well used by contemporary rock bluesers, but Albert had been doing this for many years, and in this context he is simply a master at work.

My only gripe on the '92 footage is there are moments when the band look less than well routined, including a count in for the drummer Marty Binden on the closing shuffle 'Frosty'. But it's Albert the crowd has come to see, and he delivers big time.

The bonus footage from the 1979 Montreux festival finds Albert lean hungry with a great band and on the verge of commercial success. His note flurries are positively busy for him but are glorious in their execution.

The band push him hard and he goes on a characteristic walkabout before promptly sitting down and fiery off an incendiary volley of notes accompanied by some inspired sustain. On any ordinary release this number would be a notable highlight but there's more to come. The following funky 'Snatchin' It Back' is topped by more stocatto notes before a perfunctory ending calls an unexpected halt.

But as ever the best come last and after playing double lines with sax player AC Reed, Albert goes into overdrive on 'Frosty' and his astonishing playing is all but momentarily wrecked by guest Clarence 'Gatemouth' Brown's amp problems.

Albert remains completely unfazed and soldiers on and finally the two guitarists coalesce briefly before 'Gatemouth' picks out some clean notes and acts as the perfect foil for Albert's frosty notes. A couple of stop time outro's and a final appreciative arm round Gatemouth and its all over.

It doesn't get much better than this, and it is really worth searching out this DVD just for this track alone.


Review by Pete Feenstra

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** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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