Albert Collins, 'Cold, Cold Feeling' 1981
Info: Born on the 1st of October, 1932 in Leona, Texas, at the age of seven Collins’ family moved to Houston, and it was from this base that his career would begin to take off. His earlier exposure to music came via the piano, but as he reached his late teens the guitar would become his focal point, and at this young age he was lucky enough to regualrly see his heroes, John Lee Hooker, T-Bone Walker and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown perform in the same clubs where he would cut his cloth in the fifties. Much of his early success came from the release of several 45’s, including the million-selling hit single ‘Frosty’ in 1962, however, Collins’ earnings were not enough to keep him from having to work a regular job supplemented by touring at weekends. He would eventually have the opportunity to focus solely on his music in the late-60’s, a time during which a revival of interest in blues guitar was underway, when he was brought to California by Canned Heat’s Bob Hite, who arranged for Collins to open for The Allman Brothers at The Filmore West in San Francisco.
Strangely, for a career that began in the late 1950’s, it wasn’t until 1977 that Collins finally made it big when he signed to Chicago label Alligator Records, Ice Pickin’ being his first release. This was also a time when Collins began to embark on European tours, particularly to Holland and Sweden and his reputation was reaching stellar status. His best years were still ahead of him and he released another 6 albums on the Alligator label, sadly, at the peak of his powers, a long battle with liver cancer got the better of him and he passed away in November, 1993, at only 61 years of age.
My initial introduction to Albert Collins was the 1965 compilation The Cool Sound of Albert Collins which is great, but when I dug deeper I came across Ice Pickin’ and it has become the one album that survives every cull when I’m updating the tracks on my iPod, I was even lucky enough to get a first press on vinyl about 6 months ago for a very reasonable price. Constantly referenced by Jimi Hendrix as a major influence and quoted as being Albert King’s favourite guitarist of all time, it’s easy to see why he was nicknamed The Master of the Telecaster on this album and why he was so respected by peers. The best examples of his electric blues playing can be found on track 4, ‘Cold, Cold Feeling’ and the following track, ‘Too Tired’ but especially his tale of poverty and desperation on ‘When The Welfare Turns Its Back On You’. One of Collins’ greatest attributes is his story-telling and humour, while he may be singing the blues, it’s always with a smile on his face and a large dollop of wit, perhaps never better shown than on ‘Master Charge’ where Collins bemoans that his wife is spending his money wreckelessly on clothes and the high life, leaving him constantly broke.
Finally, I love the ‘ice’ theme with this album, especially on the cover where Collins’ Telecaster is plugged into a massive block of ice, incidently, on his live shows he would have a 100 foot long guitar cable and would regularly walk through the crowd and even onto the street outside the venue and continue playing to the bemusement of both his audience and passers-by. When I first started reviewing albums from the 1950’s onwards, it was really to highlight albums that may be a little bit less well-known but are really great pieces of music. Out of the 29 albums I’ve reviewed in the series, Ice Pickin’ is easily the most over-looked, with almost no reference to it or the man himself in any of the major music books I would normally consult, this is despite Collins being voted in at #56 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s ‘100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time’, ahead of the likes of Fleetwood Mac’s Peter Green, Slash, and Carl Perkins. So I echo what Hendrix said of Collins in 1968; “There’s one cat I’m still trying to get across to people. He is really good, one of the best guitarists in the world.” Amen Jimi.
1. Honey, Hush
2. When The Welfare Turns Its Back On You
3. Ice Pick
4. Cold, Cold Feeling
5. Too Tired
6. Master Charge
7. Conversation With Collins