In Session Album, which reached #1 on the blues chart, has been digitally remastered for this reissue.
LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Albert King never got the mass recognition he deserved. He always seemed to be in the shadow of B.B. But among blues guitarists and fans of the craft, he was the master. Austin, Texas’ Stevie Ray Vaughan, 31 years King’s junior, exploded onto the scene in 1983, first as guitarist on David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” followed by his own smash hit “Pride and Joy.” When the two met onstage at Antone’s in 1973, they formed an ongoing friendship. This bond culminated with the December 1983 live recording titled In Session, originally produced for the Canadian TV concert series of the same name. The recording, originally issued on Stax Records, reached No. 1 on Billboard’s blues album chart, selling more than 300,000 units.
On June 30, 2009, Stax Records — the imprint upon which King made his most legendary recordings in the ’60s and ’70s — will reissue In Session with digital remastering and three sets of liner notes by Fantasy and Stax Records’ Bill Belmont, and journalists Lee Hildebrand and Dan Forte.
As Hildebrand points out in his notes, “Albert King wasn’t sure who it was he’d been booked to jam with on December 6, 1983 in the studios of CHCH, an independent TV station in Hamilton, Ontario, though his manager assured him he knew the young guitar hotshot. Sho’ ’nuff, Albert recognized the 29-year-old Texan immediately — not as fast- rising star Stevie Ray Vaughan but as Little Stevie, the skinny kid who’d been coming around and sitting in every time Albert passed through Austin.”
The two were flanked by the solid rhythm section of Tony Llorens on organ and piano, his brother Michael on drums and bassist Gus Thornton — the same outfit that accompanied King on his two post-Stax Fantasy albums — San Francisco ’83 and I’m in a Phone Booth Baby. And with the exception of “Pride and Joy,” Vaughan’s only vocal on the session, all of the tunes are from King’s concert repertoire. Included are “Call It Stormy Monday” (the signature song of T-Bone Walker, who hailed from Dallas’ Oak Cliff section in which Vaughan was born and raised years later), “Match Box Blues,” “Blues at Sunrise,” “Don’t Lie to Me,” “Turn it Over,” “Ask Me No Questions,” and the instrumental “Overall Junction.”
Hildebrand says that “60-year-old Albert ruled over the proceedings like a benevolent father, retaining control while allowing his guest loads of space in which to display his awesome command of the electric guitar. Stevie avoided flaunting his prowess, however, and instead delivered some of the most deliciously restrained playing of his career, laying back when his mentor dictated, turning up the heat only when Albert deemed appropriate. The interplay between the two blues masters is uncannily empathetic . . . Albert was, in a sense, passing the torch on to Stevie.”
Forte adds, “Hearing Stevie pay homage, the pride in Albert’s eyes was impossible to hide and the gamesmanship of the situation clearly brought out some of his best playing. But in this congenial battle of the titans, no holds were barred, no weapons disqualified.”
King continued to record and tour until his death from a massive heart attack in Memphis in 1992. He was 69 and enjoyed a full life in the blues. Vaughan wasn’t so fortunate. At the height of his career on August 27, 1990, he was killed in a helicopter crash at Alpine Valley, Wisconsin. He was 35. In Session stands as their only known recording together.