Renowned blues guitarist Albert Cummings has been releasing quality blues-rock since his solo debut, From The Heart, back in 2001. I was looking forward to his latest release Believe more than usual as it is his first for the guitar-centric Mascot/Provogue label. This is a mature collection where Albert has gone more for compositional completeness in blues, rock, country, funk and a large dollop of soul rather than a pure guitar focussed release. That is not to say it isn’t good (it is) and it still has some fabulous highlights in the guitar department and plenty to marvel at in the fascinating approaches to the covers he has selected.
It all starts nice and horny with a great take on Sam and Dave’s Hold On; great backing, great vocals and a brilliant short solo from Albert as the song stays true but manages to be different enough to be worthwhile. Do What Mama Says is soulful blues at its best and the rhythm guitar he plays is masterful even if you need to listen hard at times…then the far too short solo is a lovely exploration of the tones and feel he gets from his Strat, although it could have been expanded to further illustrate his dexterity. Next is a song with a history and pedigree that takes a brave man to reinterpret…Red Rooster in Albert’s hands still has that indefinable Willie Dixon feel and the intro is fabulous and, as it gets into the ‘meat’ of the song the guitar and vocals are suitably powerful with some glimmering fretboard runs and a solo that is carefully picked and imaginative…the slow take on this song actually works and distinguishes it from other more famous versions.
Queen Of Mean is pure Memphis styled soul and, although he fits in some nice guitar backing and an expansive solo, for me, it is a little too soul and not enough of the blues Albert usually delivers. Crazy Love, on the other hand, takes soul and puts it into blues rather than the other way round as we get a piano-led cover of Van’s ballad that is pleasant enough but lacks a solo that his guitar tones could have added far more emotion and drama…but, as always, my guitar biased mind is just that…biased! Get Out Of Here is more my thing…a great southern blues-rock riff leading into a strong, albeit plodding, melody and a couple of contrasting solos of the sort I was longing for…quality. Willie Dixon is revisited with a clever cover of My Babe. It is a take that also works quite well and the keys are a delight too: the rhythm guitar is good and the solos are spot on…Albert plays cleverly with the melody and inserts some runs that travel the neck and don’t have an extraneous note. It’s All Good is next and takes us close to Nashville in feel with a country-ish twang. The backing guitar needs close listening to as it is such a solid base that rescues a so-so song: and the solo, obviously, is the highlight. Going My Way provides us with the album title…”You can have anything you want all you need to do is believe.” It also supplies my favourite song; the guitar tones behind the rolling beat and positive lyrics simply shine as the pedal work adds tone, colour and feel with a superb solo.
Call Me Crazy continues the uplift as we get more guitar that speaks as passionately and effectively as the vocals. This one glistens as the fretwork echoes the lyrics and the lyricism and the solo shows how good Albert is, even if he has been somewhat restrained up until now…a pity it fades out so soon. Me And My Guitar, aptly, closes the album with this Freddie King song. Albert does the original proud with funk and, although it doesn’t quite beat the Moody/Marsden version, it comes very close. The middle solo is outstanding as is the wah’d solo to the fade that again ends too soon.
This is difficult, to sum up as it is such a damn good album but leaves me feeling it could have been so much better…every song is good but only two or three are great and I expect more great than good from Albert. Still, it is a more than worthwhile addition to any blues collection and any guitar collection too…despite my bemoaning the length of the solos! Give it a listen.
Bluesdoodles rating: Wonderful addition to any Blues/Guitar music collection
- Hold On
- Do What Mamma Says
- Red Rooster
- Queen Of Mean
- Crazy Love
- Get Out Of Here
- My Babe
- It’s All Good
- Going My Way
- Call Me Crazy
- Me And My Guitar
Apologies to the very accomplished musicians behind Albert, but I couldn’t find the credits anywhere, suffice it to say you did a fine job…all of you.
Produced by Jim Gaines
Recorded at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals
(iTunes run on tune supplied one of the greatest rock voices on the planet…Graham Bonnet on the Alcatrazz album Dangerous Games. This is the lesser-appreciated release without the widdles of Malmsteen and Vai and is actually all the better for it.)