Album Review: King Curtis – ‘King Curtis: Live at Fillmore West’

King Curtis (real name Curtis Ousley) was a saxophonist with soul.  Curtis was a popular recording artist of Atlantic Records who was tragically murdered in August 1971.  Curtis was trying to get to his apartment and two dope heads were in the way. 

He asked them to move, they refused, a scuffle ensued, and Curtis was stabbed in the heart.  A promising career brought to an end by a dope head’s lack of manners.  Aretha Franklin sang at Curtis’ funeral.  Ironically, Curtis had appeared with Franklin earlier in March 1971 at the Fillmore West. 

A three-night venue at rock promoter Bill Graham’s Fillmore West arranged by producer Jerry Wexler.  It was thought by some that the “longhairs” and “flower children” that frequented the establishment, it being in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, would not appreciate neither Franklin nor Curtis. 

Curtis came prepared though.  He had assembled a “dream team” (dubbed the Kingpins) for the occasion that consisted of Cornell Dupree, Jerry Jemmott, Bernard “Pretty” Purdie, Truman Thomas, and Pancho Morales.  To this mix the legendary Billy Preston (aka the fifth Beatle) and the Memphis Horns were added.  Curtis and the boys would open the show for Aretha and featured versions of Curtis’ Atlantic hits. 

The LP that was released of these performances would late go on to be Curtis’ best selling album of his too short career reaching #9 on Billboard’s R&B chart.  The first nine tracks on this CD represent that album.  Rhino released the next 5 tracks on a compilation CD in 2005 called “Aretha Franklin and King Curtis Live at Fillmore West: Don’t Fight the Feeling.”

They’ve now chosen to compile all of Curtis’ contributions to this soul spectacular into this one CD.  The original nine songs featured on the LP are “Memphis Soul Stew,” “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” “Whole Lotta Love,” “I Stand Accused,” “Them Changes,” “Ode to Billy Joe,” “Mr. Bojangles,” “Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours),” and “Soul Serenade.” 

The next five tracks consist of alternate versions performed from the same three-night venue.  The one original contribution to those alternates is “My Sweet Lord” (written by George Harrison) with a featured spot for Billy Preston.  This CD is really excellent and features Curtis at his best.

The sad part is that his career was cut short over an argument.  We wonder what could’ve been.  It’s also very nice to hear from the late, great Billy Preston (he died in June 2006).  If you’re a fan of King Curtis or any of the artists mentioned they you’ll really want to pick up this album.  Excellent stuff there, longhairs and flower children prepare to gather a new appreciation for soul music. 

‘King Curtis: Live at Fillmore West’ is now available at Amazon. Visit the music database for more information and a complete track listing.

Note the date on this article may be incorrect due to importing it from our old system.

Elsewhere on the Web