| On paper, it seemed like the silliest way to incorporate a highly regarded singer/guitarist into a movie: cut to a stressed-out baby sitter and her brood on the run from a group of bad guys. Seeking refuge in the nearest safe place possible, they somehow wind up on a club stage before a packed house of die-hard blues lovers. But wait... there's no getting off gracefully in this circumstance, according to the curly-haired, Telecaster totin' six-string front man. "Nobody leaves this place without singin' the blues," he preaches. Within seconds, a suburban white girl becomes as sassy as Etta James (well, maybe not that sassy) while moaning about those "baby-sittin' blues."
That classic scene from Adventures In Babysitting not only gave Elisabeth Shue life after The Karate Kid, but also served as motivation for budding blues lovers to find out more about that wide-eyed guitar player once the credits rolled. And so began another wave of recognition for the great Albert Collins, the undisputed Master of the Telecaster. Born in Leona, Texas in 1932, Collins had the good fortune to be close to one of the blues greats—his cousin happened to be none other than the legendary Lightnin' Hopkins. For a while, piano was the instrument of choice for the blues hero in training, but continued admiration for the innovative guitar stylings of John Lee Hooker, T-Bone Walker and Hopkins steered him to turn in his bench for an amplifier and six-string.
In time, Collins flowered as a sideman for the likes of Little Richard, Clarence 'Gatemouth' Brown and 'Big Mama' Thorton, eventually earning the chance to do a recording of his own for a local label in 1958. Although only regional hits, The Freeze, and future follow-ups including Don't Lose Your Cool and the legendary Frosty, became word of mouth wonders in circles that counted. Accolades began pouring in from the likes of soon-to-be guitar god Jimi Hendrix (who reportedly considered Collins as his biggest influence) and Canned Heat lead singer Bob Hite, who decided to take matters in his own hands. Convincing Albert to quit his day job as a paint mixer and move to Los Angeles, the rotund performer's pull at United Artists' subsidiary Imperial landed Collin's his first contract for a major imprint.
Although resulting albums didn't sell well, rave critical notices and admiration from his peers earned him high profile opening act slots for The Allman Brothers, among many others. Yet it was all too much for the transplanted Texan, who stopped recording in the mid-'70s, citing the need for a break. But like most self-imposed retirements for musicians of Collin's caliber, it didn't last. With encouragement from wife Gwen, he decided to strap up his guitar once again. In the years that followed, the Iceman gained a massive cult audience via a series of vibrant albums for Chicago based Alligator Records, culminating in the Grammy winning Showcase, a collaborative effort with good friend Johnny Copeland and rapidly ascending axe-man Robert Cray.
Albert Collins In Concert catches up with the guitarist one year after his high profile Babysitting gig in a performance recorded for the German music program Ohne Filter on October 27th, 1988. Flanked by a smoking 7 piece band that included future blues guitar favorite Debbi Davies and combination alto/tenor saxophone threat Chuck Williams, Collins' set list gathers the best of his then more recent albums (Cold Snap, Ice Pickin') while not forsaking the past with a rousing, show closing Frosty, featuring a guest appearance by yet another latter day guitar slinger, Duke Bulliard. One of the things that struck me while watching the performance for a second time is how Collins was able to get such an amazing tone sans guitar pick, not to mention his command of string bends even with a capo positioned very high on the neck; Collin's showmanship abilities and crowd pleasing nature (including his now infamous and much imitated 'guitar walks' proved so mesmerizing that it was easy to miss what technical gifts he possessed.
Sadly, we lost Albert Collins much too soon. Mere months after his first major label release in nearly 25 years, the master's Telecaster was silenced on November 24th, 1993. Such a premature exit makes In Concert all the more valuable.
DVD - Code Free