Album Review: Freddie King - Burglar (1974)

By Sergio Ariza

Funk seen by a King of blues 

Freddie King
was living a second golden age on an artistic level in the early 70's but the company where he was recording, Shelter Records, went out of business - so, even though his popularity among white audiences was greater than ever- with King going on tour with Homer Simpson's favorite group, Grand Funk Railroad (and they named him in their most popular song, We're An American Band) -  the guitarist was without company. Without thinking twice, Eric Clapton, one of his best known students, decided to sign him to his newly formed company, RSO Records, and Burglar was the first result of that collaboration.


It's a record very much of its time with King showing that he has been listening to Sly & The Family Stone and other funk giants. Producer Mike Vernon knew how to surround him with a great band of musicians, with the great Steve Ferrone on drums, and King continued to demonstrate that he is one of the most fabulous blues guitarists of all time, extracting gold from his Gibson ES-345, a guitar that is honored in the cover drawing (although some people think that the artist had not seen a 345 in his life ...).

The album couldn't have a better start than Pack It Up, one of the great songs of his career. It is a ‘funk bomb’ in which the horns of the British band Gonzalez, underscore the excellent vocal performance of King. All this without forgetting a guitar solo in which he shows how dirty and spicy the blues can be. My Credit Didn't Go Through confirms that we are before a start that is pure funk, although seasoned by the spicy guitar of King. This number surely would put an enormous smile on the mouth of Sly Stone.


It may have been Clapton's love for J.J. Cale that led him to record a version of I Got The Same Old Blues, but the result is pure Freddie King, a song in which he once again shines on the six strings without forgetting to demonstrate the enormity of the singer we are talking about. Blues purists will find the fiery Only Getting Second Best more appealing, as it is a simmering blues.

Sugar Sweet
is one of the outstanding songs on the album, if only because you listen to King with his number one fan, Clapton, who seems delighted to be exchanging notes with one of his idols. Even so, I Had A Dream is even better, a version of a song by Isaac Hayes and David Porter for Johnnie Taylor, in which King pours his soul into every note sung and played.


The album closes with another cover version, in this case of Earl King's classic, Come On (Let the Good Times Roll), which is not as incendiary as
Jimi Hendrix's, but King knows how to take it to quieter, more soulful terrain, with subtle horns and backup singers.

It's a good close for a remarkable album, perhaps not the most representative of his career, after all it's a blues-funk work, but one of the best. An album that shows that the youngest of the kings of the blues was in full artistic form shortly before his excessive lifestyle made his body say ‘i’ve had enough’ before his 43rd birthday.