Recorded in front of an enthusiastic audience and released just one week before Curtis
' murder in 1971, Live at Fillmore West
is a brilliant confirmation of the saxophonist's place in popular music. Backed up by Atlantic's top session men, as well as Billy Preston
and the Memphis Horns
, Curtis rips through some of the biggest hits of the day, transforming them into showcases for his soulful playing and the group's outstanding rhythmic interplay. Beautiful renditions of "A Whiter Shade of Pale" and "I Stand Accused" are highlights, but it's full-throttle rockers like "Changes" and "Memphis Soul Stew" that comprise the heart of the album. Curtis occasionally gets lost in the mix, but it doesn't matter; with so much great music going on, you probably won't notice.