King Curtis, Live At Fillmore West (1971)
I think I must have read about this album first – and that had me importing a copy of the CD. Ever since that first listen I’ve had it on the list, an album I had to have – on vinyl. That CD’s done the rounds, been loaned out, copied, reduced to a file stored now on the iPod and almost every track added to multiple playlists. I’ve introduced a few people to this album – and man, what a band! And what a story behind this record. King Curtis was leading a band that was support act and backing band for Aretha Franklin. So this set is the warm-up for what would go on to be Aretha’s own Live At Fillmore West album (a killer set, too). When this album opens with Memphis Soul Stew – it’s actually the conclusion of the opening set, Curtis’ band’s encore, that’s why it’s at fever-pitch. But there’s such a great energy across this set – the version of Whiter Shade of Pale (which you’ll know from Withnail & I), a storming rendition of Whole Lotta Love (which you might know as the theme from Top of the Pops). The band is ridiculous – Cornell Dupree on guitar, Jerry Jemmott on bass, Bernard Purdie on drums, Billy Preston at the electric organ, a kick-ass horn section with Curtis in the lead on sax. Each player would be reason alone to want to hear this – listening to them all go at it: wow. I like to listen to this and imagine the space between sets – I have the Aretha record too – but imagine what people were thinking in that gap between sets…to think they were going to get more. Aretha’s record is wild enough. This record is wild enough. What a night. What a series of nights! And then of course it’s bittersweet, King Curtis had stormed across R’n’B, jazz, rock’n’roll, soul – and a week after this record was released some goon stabbed him, killed him. So you listen to this record – and now I have the vinyl! Finally!! – and you hear all of that, Aretha, the stabbing, Curtis’ earlier sides that informed his playing here, that had him adding effects to his horn and moving away from the obvious shapes. And you hear a groove so soulful, so unified, so exciting. So it’s about harnessing all that joy and sorrow in one – thinking of all that it took to create this and all that could have been after.
Sample Track: Soul Serenade
The Vinyl Countdown is a document of every LP I listen to, brand new discoveries and old-old favourites; extremely pre-loved, previously abandoned or with the shrink-wrap having just been removed it’s all here at The Vinyl Countdown