Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Albert Collins

  • Ice Pickin' [Alligator, 1978] A-
  • Frostbite [Alligator, 1980] B+
  • Frozen Alive! [Alligator, 1981] B+
  • Don't Lose Your Cool [Alligator, 1983] B+
  • Cold Snap [Alligator, 1986] B

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

Ice Pickin' [Alligator, 1978]
Like Otis Rush, Collins has always been one of those well-respected bluesmen whose records left agnostics unconvinced. But this is the most exciting blues album of 1978. Collins's guitar is clean, percussive, vehement, breaking into unlikely rivulets on the trademark shuffle climaxes, and while his voice is thin his delivery is savvy and humorous. So are his words--unlike most of his colleagues, he seems to know a lot more about sharing life with another person than "Honey Hush." A-

Frostbite [Alligator, 1980]
In its way, this is as formulaic as a Linda Ronstadt album--pick good tunes, gather good musicians, identify good takes. But in blues the Good is simpler, more satisfying, and harder to come by than it is in superpop, and while I wouldn't say Albert plays better than Linda sings, I wouldn't argue if you did. Albert sings OK, too. B+

Frozen Alive! [Alligator, 1981]
Simply by putting him in a studio with songs and sidemen worthy of the genre, Bruce Iglauer got the best album this Texas legend ever cut, 1978's Ice Pickin', but faced with the blues producer's eternal what-next he settled for a record on which a full horn section jostled uncomfortably against Collins's down-home wit. Fortunately, the next next goes for the bare live bones, with the classic "Frosty" establishing a bite and authority that are never relinquished. I miss that down-home wit, though--giving your bass player room for a hornpipe is the kind of dumb joke that's afflicted live albums for years. B+

Don't Lose Your Cool [Alligator, 1983]
Kicking off with a blistering boogie, borrowing wisdom from Percy Mayfield and wit from Oscar Brown Jr., and played with an edge throughout, this is everything you could ask of a blues album except--except that it isn't quite not just another good blues album. A must for aficionados and a fine introduction for novices, but inbetweeners can live rich and meaningful lives without it. B+

Cold Snap [Alligator, 1986]
In which Bruce Iglauer shoots for a Grammy by setting up his big man with a big band--Jimmy McGriff, Mel Brown, Uptown Horns, the works. They do work, too. But nobody ever mistook Albert for Jimmy Witherspoon, much less Jimmy Rushing--he doesn't have the kind of built-in bullhorn essential to that big effect. As if NARAS will care. B