Recommended - "...one of the blues classics of the last decade."
Personnel: Albert Collins (vocals, guitar); Larry Burton (guitar); A.C. Reed (tenor saxophone); Chuck Smith (baritone saxophone); Alan Batts (keyboards); Aron Burton (bass); Casey Jones (drums).
Producers: Richard McLeese, Dick Shurman, Bruce Iglauer.
Recorded at Curtom Studios in Chicago, Illinois.
Of all the slabs of blues-guitar brilliance in Albert Collins's discography, ICE PICKIN', his landmark 1978 debut for Alligator Records, is arguably the best. In the '70s, Collins had moved beyond his earlier R&B-themed groove instrumentals, and was writing more traditional blues tunes (with verses and choruses) that still showcased his playing. On the funky opener, "Honey, Hush! (Talking Woman Blues)," for example, his full-toned Telecaster slides in for quick embellishments and accents during the body of the song, before opening up into a ferocious, angular solo. "Cold, Cold Feeling" is a smoldering, down-tempo blues that finds Collins playing against the song's spaces with searching, soulful leads.
Collins is joined by a seamlessly tight backing band here, including a keyboardist, tenor and baritone saxes, and a crack rhythm section. The group rollicks on "Too Tired," tones it down for the funny narrative of "Conversation with Collins," and locks in at mid-tempo for "Ice Pick" (on which Collins plays syncopated figures with stinging intensity). Collins's style, which involves a full, distinctive tone, rhythmic finger picking, and a sometimes quirky, but always soulful, sense of phrasing, is in full flower throughout. This is a superb date from one of the blues-guitar greats.