Freddie King
" Taking Care of Business "
Bear Family

Blueswax 9
Rating 8

Outstanding Packaging and Tons of Great Music, (04/22/10)

t's almost thirty-four years since the great Freddie King left us at the tender age of just forty-two. So after all of these years, it's especially nice to have the German-based Bear Family Record Company compile an extensive compilation of a major chunk of Freddie's work. While this compilation is not a complete body of King's work, it is by far and away the largest collection of Freddie's recordings on seven CDs that span three decades. For all his accolades, I've always felt the Freddie never got his true just dues, especially considering his later career rock/Blues affiliations, but needless to say Freddie never received the fruits that many of his similar peers did. In all fairness, this compilation supports the view that King's output was erratic (and at times seemingly misguided). Here, he covers surf rock, bossa nova, straight Blues, instrumental music, rock, as well as dance craze tunes like the twist, and the Watusi. Let me just say this, when the material is appropriate, there's no doubt that King was one of the finest guitarist/vocalists of his time. Personally speaking, I preferred his King Records era, but I have to say that the Shelter Records output was also quite formidable. It was at Shelter that King worked with top-shelf session players, and the likes of Leon Russell, J.J. Cale and Eric Clapton.

The first four CDs focus on King's '50s and '60s recordings, including (as expected) smash hits "San-Ho-Zay," "Have You Ever Loved a Woman," the immortal "Hide-Away," as well as previously unreleased alternate takes. Discs four through seven zero concentrate on Freddie's late '60s and early '70s recordings which are at times funky and soulful, plus there are also some live tracks and untitled instrumentals.

It's always about the music, but I would be remiss to leave out the excellent one-hundred-plus page hard-bound book that was mostly compiled by historian Bill Dahl with a lot of cool photos, stories, and an amazing breakdown of each and every track that the albums are derived from, and the original liners from the vinyl. Bravo to both Dahl and the Bear Family for the first rate efforts contained in this excellent book. It would have been sweet had they also added some of the session/sideman work Freddie recorded. Most memorable is King's guitar playing on Jimmy Rogers' Shelter recording "Gold Tailed Bird,' later titled "Chicago's Jimmy Rogers Sings the Blues," that additionally offered previously released tracks and was partially produced by the aforementioned J.J. Cale.

By all means this is a very minor quibble, but Rogers "Live at Ma Bee's," an instrumental that is not a live recording, still makes my hair stand up as Freddie roars mightily.Freddie King was appropriately titled The Texas Cannonball for very good reasons. If you were fortunate to have seen King perform, you'd know exactly why I've said this. What also impresses is how King shifted with the times and how he kept his signature uniqueness throughout. To my mind and ears, King was a force who's powerful performances always delivered. The proof is on full display here, and his legacy is now prominently preserved, most of which still sounds fresh and thrilling decades after the original recordings were laid down. Enjoy.

Bob Putignano: