Towards the end of last year, I was browsing in a record store and ran across a new release of a Freddie King concert from 1968. Since I’m a fan, I took a closer look. The bulk of the album was record live at the Fillmore West in 1968. There are two bonus tracks, one from the Ann Arbor Blues Festival in 1969 and one from Sweden in 1973. I was excited. This is live Freddie at real venues in his prime. It’s too bad the album wasn’t worth the excitement it generated.
The big problem with the album is the poor quality of the recording. It sounds like these were great shows for those in the audience. The liner notes do say that Freddie was “off mike,” but that isn’t the only problem with the sound. The lead guitar completely overwhelms everything else. It’s kind of hard while listening to hear the rest of the band and they are never clear. It doesn’t matter how great a guitar player you are, the lead guitar has to fit into a good song or it is a waste of time. This recording is so out of balance that nothing ever gels.
I won’t go through the songs one by one because I’ll just keep saying the same things over and over. These are nice lead lines, but they just aren’t enough. The set is made up of classics and Freddie King originals. The track list is:
1. Ain’t Nobody’s Business (Grainger/Robbins)
2. I Wonder Why (King)
3. Have You Ever Loved a Woman (King)
4. Key To the Highway (Segar)
5. Hideaway (King)
6. Whole Lotta Lovin’ (King)
7. Five Long Years (Boyd)
8. Hideaway (King)
9. Going Down (King)
10. Play It Cool (King)
11. Feelin’ Good (I Wanna Boogie) (Parker)
There are some highlights. There’s “Key To the Highway” because the song has been done by everyone, but Freddie has a unique take on it. It’s funkier than you usually hear it. There are the two versions of “Hideaway”. Since this is an instrumental, the sound quality is less distracting than on the other tracks. And “Play It Cool” and “Feelin’ Good” do have better sound quality than the other nine tracks.
As I said before, I’m a big Freddie King fan, but not big enough for this record. You would need to be a completionist for this to have a place in your collection. There are so many better places to hear these same songs. I wish I could say otherwise, but this was a very disappointing listen.