Live at Montreux: 1992
First Appeared in The Music Box, March 2008, Volume 15, #3
Written by John Metzger
Tue March 4, 2008, 06:30 AM CST
Sadly, Albert Collins’ career arc is a fairly typical one for pioneering blues artists. Despite the astounding success that he achieved in the late 1950s and early 1960s with the singles The Freeze and Frosty, he found himself slowly slipping into obscurity as tastes began to change. Playing before smaller and smaller audiences and without a label to release his recordings, Collins drifted in and out of the music business before he finally found a home with Alligator Records in 1978. Although he won numerous accolades and awards for his endeavors in the 1980s, it wasn’t until the early portion of the following decade that he truly started to get his due. Tragically, his life was cut short in 1993 when, within the span of three months, he was diagnosed with and succumbed to cancer.
There is, of course, no way to know what Collins would have accomplished had he managed somehow to survive. Making up for lost time, he not only had obtained some major marketing muscle by shifting from Alligator to Virgin Records, but he also had spent the final years of his life recording with a slew of heavyweights — including Jack Bruce, B.B. King, John Mayall, and Robert Cray. One thing is certain: Collins was reinvigorated, and his recently issued concert set Live at Montreux: 1992, which was captured in the midst of his re-emergence, provides all of the proof that is necessary for defending this claim.
More than anything else, Collins was known for the intensity of his concert performances, where his unique approach to playing guitar truly came alive. Without a doubt, Live at Montreux: 1992 is a prime example of his command and mastery of the blues. Framed by blasts of trumpet and saxophone, cuts like Iceman and If You Love Me Like You Say are aggressive and punchy, and the outbursts of notes that Collins rips from his instrument, particularly during the latter track, churn violently against the propulsive backdrop supplied by his band. Underscored by the funky bass lines laid down by Johnny B. Gayden, Put the Shoe on the Other Foot feels like a joyous celebration, and Frosty, Collins’ signature tune, sounds as vital as ever.
Nevertheless, for all of the forceful bravado that he shows throughout the set, the two slower numbers on Live at Montreux: 1992 are where Collins truly excels. Both Lights Are On (But Nobody’s Home) and Too Many Dirty Dishes are tender but torturous. Taking their lyrics to heart, Collins uncovers the pure anguish that lies within them. On the former tune, Jon Smith manages to counter the sting of Collins’ lead guitar licks with the warmer cry of his saxophone, but during the latter cut, the pain of Collins’ confirmed suspicions is revealed by the way in which he alternates between staccato volleys and sustained notes. If there was any doubt that Collins was at the pinnacle of his career and the peak of his capabilities when he passed, Live at Montreux: 1992 surely will put them to rest. It is a fitting tribute to a man who spent most of his life unjustly relegated to the shadows.
Of Further Interest...
Live at Montreux: 1992 is available from
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
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