Our top 10 Albert Collins songs list looks at the catalog of an American blues legend who built his reputation as an impassioned guitar player. Born in 1932, Albert Collins started playing the guitar when he was sixteen following inspiration from the hit “Boogie Chillen’” by John Lee Hooker. Before he started recording music as a solo artist, Albert Collins spent time playing with his group The Rhythm Rockers, which he started when he was eighteen. Albert Collins was joined by fellow Texas bluesman, Johnny Copeland, in The Rhythm Rockers four years after its launch. Eventually, Albert Collins started recording songs for his solo pursuits in the mid-‘60s.
Albert Collins’s Career Beginnings and Album Releases
The hit “Frost,” issued in 1964, marked Albert Collins’ debut solo single. However, the singer had earlier issued the hits “The Freeze” and “Collins Shuffle” as Albert Collins and His Rhythm Rockers in 1958. “Frost” would later be featured on Albert’s debut studio album, The Cool Sound of Albert Collins, which was released in 1965. The Cool Sound of Albert Collins was issued through TCF Hall Record label, featuring other notable musical gems such as “Hot N’ Cold” and the instrumental tracks “Don’t Lose Your Cool” and “Sno-Cone.”
Guided by members of the blues/rock band Canned Heat, Albert Collins managed to sign a recording contract with Imperial Records. Love Can Be Found Anywhere (Even in A Guitar) marked Albert’s first album issued through Imperial Records. This 1968 album is home to some of the best Albert Collins songs including “Do the Sissy,” “Ain’t Got Time,” and “Whatcha Say (I Don’t Know).”
Albert Collins went on to issue two more albums through Imperial Records, including his 1969 LP Trash Talkin’ and his 1970 LP The Compleat Albert Collins. The album title track to Albert Collins’ 1969 studio album earned him his first Grammy Award nomination in 1970 in the Best R&B Instrumental Performance category. However, the album lost to King Curtis’ hit “Games People Play.” Other instrumental tracks that had been nominated for the award include “A Black Man’s Soul” by Ike Turner, “Workin’ On a Groovy Thing” by Richard Groove Holmes, and “What Does It Take” by Junior Walker & The All-Stars.
In 1971, Albert Collins went on to sign a recording contract with Tumblewood Records. The record label was associated with producer Bill Szymczyk, best known for his successful work with The Eagles, Joe Walsh, B.B. King, and The James Gang. Albert Collins’ only release through the record label was his 1971 LP, There’s Gotta Be a Change. Unfortunately, the record label collapsed with Albert Collins taking a long break without making any new studio album release.
Albert Collins would later return in 1978 with his sixth studio album, Ice Pickin’, issued through Alligator Records. Ice Pickin’ went on to guide Albert Collins to critical acclaim, thanks to songs “Ice Pick,” “Master Charge,” and “Avalanche.” The album also Albert Collins’ covers of T-Bone Walker’s “Cold, Cold Feeling” and Johnny “Guitar” Watson’s “Too Tired.” Ice Pickin’ earned Albert Collins a Grammy Award nomination in 1980 in the Best Ethnic or Traditional Recording category. However, Albert lost to Muddy “Mississippi” Waters Live by Muddy Waters.
Frostbite, issued in 1980, marked Albert Collins’ seventh studio album. Like Ice Pickin’, Frostbite received critical acclaim thanks to Albert Collins’ classic performances on the guitar. “If You Love Me Like You Say,” “I Got A Problem,” and Snowed In” are the best Albert Collins songs from the album. Don’t Lose Your Cool, issued in 1983, marked Albert Collins’ eighth studio album. The album featured musical gems such as “Don’t Lose Your Cool,” “When a Guitar Plays the Blues,” and “Ego Trip.” Don’t Lose Your Cool won the 1983 W. C. Handy Award’s Best Contemporary Blues Album.
In 1986, Albert issued his ninth studio album, Cold Snap. The album went on to showcase Albert’s dominance in the blues scene. Cold Snap featured some of the best Albert Collins songs including “I Ain’t Drunk,” “Too Many Dirty Dishes,” and “Iceman.” The album was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Traditional Blues Recording category in 1988, losing to House Party New Orleans Style by Professor Longhair.
Showdown! a collaborative album by Albert Collins, Johnny Copeland, and Robert Cray won the same award in 1987, beating albums by Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, James Cotton, Willie Dixon, and John Lee Hooker. Two years before he succumbed to lung cancer, Albert Collins issued his tenth and last studio album, Iceman. The album is home to musical gems such as “Iceman,” “Head Rag,” “Don’t Mistake Kindness for Weakness,” and “Travellin’ South.”
Iceman was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Contemporary Blues Album category in 1992. However, Albert lost the award to Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues by Buddy Guy. Other albums that were nominated for the same award that year include Signature by Charlie Musselwhite, Let Me In by Johnny Winter, and Live! Simply the Best by Irma Thomas.
Albert Collins’ Legacy
Albert Collins, alias The Iceman, remains one of the most significant blues artists of all time. His unique and unmistakable guitar playing style made him the Master of the Fender Telecaster. Albert, together with Johnny Copeland and Johnny “Guitar” Watson, helped shape the electric Texas blues sound. The guitarist inspired other blues artists including Jimmie Vaughan and his brother Stevie Ray Vaughan. In 1986, Albert Collins was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame together with Lead Belly and Tommy Johnson. Here we present the ten best Albert Collins songs of all time.
#10 – Get Your Business Straight
Ushering us into the top 10 Albert Collins songs list is the fantastic hit “Get Your Business Straight.” The song’s lyrics were penned by Albert’s wife, Gwendolyn Collins, who also contributed to the songwriting process of other Albert Collins classics including “Iceman” and “Give Me My Blues.”
“Get Your Business Straight” is featured on Albert Collins’ fifth studio album, There’s Gotta Be a Change. The song was covered in 2000 by the blues guitarist Coco Montoya, a former member of the English blues rock band John Mayall and The Bluesbreakers. Other notable covers of the song have been issued by Shawn Holt & the Teardrops and Magic Slim & The Teardrops.
#9 – When a Guitar Plays the Blues
Even in cover songs, Albert Collins’ guitar playing style remained quite conspicuous! Evidence for this claim is our number nine hit “When a Guitar Plays the Blues,” a song originally issued in 1965 by Roy Lee Johnson. Albert Collins’ magical telecaster tunes can be heard from the beginning of this cover song.
The guitar riffs on this song ushers us to the thrill of Albert’s emotive playing, elucidating the raw passion in his art. “When a Guitar Plays the Blues” was featured on Albert Collins’ eighth studio album, Don’t Lose Your Cool. The song was also covered by the American blues guitarist/musician Roy Buchanan in his 1985 album of the same name.
#8 – If You Love Me Like You Say
Coming in at number eight on our top 10 Albert Collins songs list is the hit “If You Love Me Like You Say.” The song is yet another cover hit that brings to sight the excellence of Albert on the Fender Telecaster! “If You Love Like You Say” was first recorded by the American blues/soul singer Little Johnny Taylor, who was best known for his chart-topping single “Part Time Love.”
Albert Collins was the second artist to cover this blues classic after the American West Coast blues guitarist Smokey Wilson. The song was featured on Albert’s seventh studio album, Frostbite. Albert’s vocal delivery in this hit also stands out! This wonderful track remains among the most revered quintessential electric blues hits by Albert Collins.
Just before lung cancer robbed us of one of the most iconic blues guitarists of all time, Albert issued his album Iceman. The album title track is a song evocative of Albert Collins’ nickname The Iceman. With this cut, Albert Collins boasts of why he is ‘The Iceman’ to his audience. The singer/guitarist was on point while articulating what he does as ‘The Iceman.’ “Iceman” serves as evidence of Albert Collins’ continued excellence in the blues scene, thanks to his solid delivery. The song adds glamour to this album despite it not being highly acclaimed as its predecessor LP Cold Snap.
#6 – Cold, Cold Feeling
Number six on our top 10 Albert Collins songs list is the charming hit “Cold, Cold Feeling.” The song was among the hits that helped crown the late ‘70s and ‘80s as Albert Collins’ prime years. “Cold, Cold Feeling” was featured on the singer’s/guitarist’s Grammy Award-nominated studio album, Ice Pickin’.
Initially, the song was issued in 1952 by T-Bone Walker, a man Albert cited to be among his influences. Albert Collins was the first artist ever to cover this hit, issuing his version in 1978. The invigorating guitar riffs offer a perfect reason to stay hooked on this cover blues track off Albert’s Grammy Award-nominated album.
#5 – Too Many Dirty Dishes
Slow yet breathtaking is the fifth pick on our ten best Albert Collins songs list “Too Many Dirty Dishes.” The song is among the best releases off Albert’s Grammy Award-nominated studio album, Cold Snap. “Too Many Dirty Dishes” finds the singer/guitarist suspicious of his woman’s unfaithfulness. The guitarist wonders who’s making dirty dishes with his lover yet he leaves a clean sink.
One of the biggest moments in this song is when Albert delivers guitar riffs that imitate the sounds made when cleaning the utensils! Former Blood, Sweat & Tears vocalist David Clayton-Thomas released a cover of this hit in 1996. Guitarist Tab Benoit and pianist Henry Gray released a live rendition of this hit in 1997.
#4- Too Tired
A fair share of the best Albert Collins songs on his Grammy Award-nominated album Ice Pickin’ were mostly covers, just like our fourth pick “Too Tired.” The song was initially issued in 1955 by Johnny “Guitar” Wilson and His Orchestra. Albert Collins was the first artist to release a cover version of this hit, doing so in 1978. His prodigious skills on the guitar saw him featured on Gary Moore’s 1990 cover of the song. Other notable artists who have covered the hit “Too Tired” include Bob Walsh and Etta James.
#3 – I Ain’t Drunk
The third pick on our ten best Albert Collins songs list is the hit “I Ain’t Drunk.” “I Ain’t Drunk” is among the musical gems by Albert featured on his Grammy Award-nominated album, Cold Snap. The song was initially issued by the American guitarist Jimmy Liggins in 1954. “I Ain’t Drunk” features some of the best guitar licks by Albert Collins. His enchanted vocal delivery adds to the reason why this hit is among his most revered tracks.
#2 – If Trouble Was Money
“If Trouble Was Money” is one of the most sought-after hits by Albert Collins. The song was issued for the first time in 1984 and featured on his live album, Live in Japan. Albert Collins might have probably been inspired to release this song by the phrase “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.” “If Trouble Was Money” is the perfect embodiment of Albert’s unique style of playing that made his stage presence quite commanding and captivating.
#1 – Frosty
Unsurprisingly, Albert Collins’ 1964 instrumental hit “Frosty” made it to the top spot on our list! This instrumental track remains the prototypical pinnacle of the mid-‘60s blues. Without a doubt, “Frost” is a fan-favorite for many Albert fans with some going ahead to name it the guitarist’s signature hit. While this instrumental track never made it to the charts, it sold almost a million copies helping solidify Albert Collins’ position in the boom of the ‘60s blues scene.
Thanks to Albert’s unique approach to this instrumental track that he manages to showcase his excellence on the guitar. “Frosty” was among the songs Albert Collins went on to feature on his debut studio album, The Cool Sound of Albert Collins. Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown paid homage to this hit, issuing his cover version in 1982.
Feature Photo: Masahiro Sumori, CC BY-SA 3.0 <http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/>, via Wikimedia Commons
Top 10 Albert Collins Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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