R&B, Blues, Soul & Stax

A Good Sign


Albert King’s 1967 debut for Stax Records, Born Under A Bad Sign, is shorthand for the blues. A number of '60s-era rock 'n' rollers covered the title track both on stage and in the studio, Cream and Jimi Hendrix perhaps the most famously. The entire album, a collection of singles King recorded for Stax, marked a crossover from an older blues epoch and helped make the form relevant again, thanks in large part to the support of Stax house band Booker T. & the MGs, The Memphis Horns, and the songwriting of Booker T. Jones and William Bell. So it’s a good sign that King’s seminal album is given the Stax Remaster deluxe edition treatment, treating listeners to the original album as well as four previously unreleased versions of King classics and a compelling, never-before-released, untitled instrumental.

Although the release comprises well-known King tunes, revisiting the album is something of a twice-lived revelation. I discovered all over again the soulful flute and languid blues of “I Almost Lost My Mind” and the slow burn of “As the Years Go Passing By.” The bonus tracks themselves add up to an EP’s worth of crucial King cuts, including of course the title number but also offering fresh takes of “Crosscut Saw” and “The Hunter."