Debut albums are important; the right songs, players, producer, sessions, studio, etc. Albert King had recorded for a number of other labels, making Born Under A Bad Sign his debut for Stax Records. Mr King was a good fit with the Stax label team of Al Bell, Estelle Axton and Jim Stewart, its songwriters Booker T. Jones and William Bell, and backing players from Booker T & The M.G.’s and the Memphis Horns. On its release, Born Under a Bad Sign was a fine effort. Time has made it the gem in Albert King’s output.

The album is grounded with the title track use a monster bass line developed by song author William Bell and Booker T. Other highlights on board are King’s first hit for the label, “Laundromat Blues”, “Crosscut Saw”, and “Oh Pretty Woman”, with M.G. axman Steve Cropper holding the rhythm steady for Albert’s blues riffs. Born Under A Bad Sign offers Albert King covering “Kansas City” and two rare ballad turns with “The Very Thought of You” and Ivory Joe Hunter’s “I Almost Lost My Mind”.

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The J. Geils Band -(from the album The J. Geils Band) -  The Boston music scene never, ever got the kudos it should have received for being inclusive with its music though the community has become a home in niche markets of Blues, Metal, and Indie Rock and Ska. The Boston fanbase has a rule… are wicked good, or you suck: no in-betweens. When J. Geils formed his namesake, he was part of a trio that would host J. Geils Band bassman D.K. (Danny Klein) and Magic Dick (Richard Salwitz). The Blues was their muse, and the trio kept the format in their songs when they became electric in 1967, adding drummer Stephen Jo Bladd. The group took on a frontman for his microphone chops, though it was radio waves and a DJ’s knowledge of music that got Peter Wolf the attention of the existing J.Geils Blues Band line-up. The group dropped Blues from its moniker and added the final member for the line-up with a former fan, Seth Justman on keyboards. The J. Geils Band signed to Atlantic Records and released a self-titled album that brought Soul and Blues into Rock arena shows, showing a young rock’n’roll audience that the real party was in the soul The J Geils Band rocked.

The album, The J. Geils Band, was released in 1970. It hosted five tracks written by the group, which was unusual for the mix of Blues, Rock and Soul bands that included the Geils Band. To draw the line from where they were standing musically, they admitted they had as much trouble at Otis Rush did in his 1962 hit, “Homework”. The J. Geils Band ask “What’s Your Hurry”, sink into pain “On Borrowed Time”, and pound the beat into your brain with “Hard Drivin’ Man”. The tracks all fit in with the album mood of rock’n’roll boys with a major woody for rhythm and blues. The original songs are from the pens of group members Peter Wolfe, J. Geils, and Seth Justman.

The J. Geils Band stomp into their debut with opening cut “Wait”, an in-house tune by Seth and Peter while J. Geils pens the following cut “Ice Breaker (for Big M)” I don’t know how J. saw the song. As a opener for the classic Soul show band instrumental live show, it fits very well, though it is track number two on The J, Geils Band. Included was their version of The Contours, “First I Look at the Purse” (written by Smokey Robinson), the initial track that gained the group FM radio attention as a live recording from their shows. The J. Geils Band became synonymous with bar and party bands. Sonically, that is exactly where they landed though what the Boston boys did was take it to the top by playing the songs they held close, and letting their Rock muse guide their moves. The studio version of the hit live track showed that the purse strings were linked to J. Geils guitar strings as he licks cleanly up and down throughout the course of the song.

The J. Geils Band had a secret weapon in the future-thinking band mentality that Magic Dick should take the lead with his harmonica, as he does on the Big Walter Price tune “Pack Fair and Square”. The J. Geils Band were Boston-based though their popularity grew internationally. Detroit, Michigan took the band as their own, and their popularity in a northern town primed for electric Blues can be traced back to songs they performed by Albert Collins’ “Sno-Cone” as they shiver and shake on the tune a  close-out instrumental. John Lee Hooker’s “Serves You Right to Suffer” makes a slow crawl across the album, and if you are looking for a way to fall in love with the Geils Band it just might be in confessing they are ‘back on Broadway' and “Cruisin’ for Love” again’ in their version of the Juke Joint Jimmy track.

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The Textones   (from the album Midnight Mission on Omnivore Recordings) - The Textones released two albums that have been given another look at life through recent Omnivore Recordings releases. Several years apart, the albums featured Carla Olson and crew creating an early version of Americana, structuring its Alt Country with a heavier foot in the Rock camp Roots.

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss (from the album Raising Sand) - It was an unlikely duo, put together by a producer renowned for left-of-center projects. When Robert Plant and Alison Krauss released Raising Sand, the T-Bone Burnett-produced album immediately had critics tripping over their tongues, becoming fans once again for a pairing that got attention. T-Bone Burnett curated the tracks on Raising Sand, hearing the songs as perfect vehicles for the marriage of a Bluegrass Country star (Alison Krauss) and a rock god (Robert Plant). Released by Rounder Records on October 23, 2007, the album garnered top spots on the top music press charts for the 2007 year end. The album continued to grow and went on to receive 2009 Grammy awards (#51) for each of the five categories in which it was nominated. Robert Plant and Alison Krauss shared trophies for Album of the Year, Best Contemporary Folk – Americana Album, Record of the Year (“Please Read the Letter”), Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals (“Rich Woman”), and Best Country collaboration (“Killing the Blues”). The track “Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On)” won Best Pop Collaboration for Grammy #50 in 2008. Sales in the first week of the Raising Sand release topped numbers for either artists’ solo releases.  

The sound of Raising Sand is ethereal on a consistent basis. The genius of the collaboration is the virgin presence of both vocalists meeting in new territory. Both Alison Krauss and Robert Plant had forged careers pushing down doors and staying true to intention. The song choices are not out of character for either voice, and it is the combined texture of conjoined vocals over the psychedelic Americana production of T-Bone Burnett that raises for bar for Raising Sand. The rhythm line of “Rich Woman” wobbles on a determined path as Robert Plant and Alison Krauss lock into the notes, never missing a hit when the voices mix. A funereal march pounds down the ground for the angelic delivery of “Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us”, field Blues notes silence rock arena power chords to whisper “Nothin’”, string note freckle the air of “Your Long Journey”, and a rubbery rock’n’roll rattle accompanies the musical predictions of “Fortune Teller”.

The songs that became Raising Sand came all styles and eras. The Everly Brothers catalog offered two cuts; “Stick with Me Baby” was recorded for the duo’s 1960 debut A Date with the Everly Brothers, and “Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On” appeared on a 1964 self-titled release. Robert Plant originally recorded “Please Read the Letter” with his Led Zeppelin partner, Jimmy Page, on the pair’s 1998 Walking into Clarksdale release. Robert Plant and Alison Krauss gracefully honor decades of music as they nod to Tom Waits with “Trampled Rose”, and give two audio thumbs up to the former songman from The Byrds, Gene Clark, with his tunes “Through the Morning, Through the Night” and “Polly Come Home”.

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Gillian Welch   (from the album Soul Journey release date 6-3-03) - Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings had logged four albums into Gillian’s recording output when Soul Journey was released. After backing the songs on the 2001 release, Time (the Revelator), with just guitar and banjo, Soul Journey rides with a fuller load of instruments for its song delivery, adding electric guitars, drums, and organ. As with all of her album releases, the center point in the recording is the way the words lay over the music, the way Gillian walks through the stories, observing and exposing all she sees.