Sorry for the delay, everybody! I got caught up in a different
listening project . . .
See, I am completely out of room in the closet where I store my "garage sale records" (i.e. the stuff that's not in good enough shape to post for sale on my website) so I decided to organize them with the hope that they will move better if people don't have to dig through 40+ boxes just to find what they're looking for. First I pulled out and trashed all the stuff that was literally unplayable and/or so undesirable nobody was ever gonna buy it. Then I sorted everything by genre and alphabetized it. I also decided I might as well just keep anything I was interested in -- since again, this is stuff I'm only trying to sell for a buck or less anyway -- and so I've been listening through piles of LPs, deciding if I liked some of it enough to keep, just checking for skips on other stuff. That project has finally concluded and I'm ready to dive back in to the Alphabetical Project more regularly again. B.B. KING
-- Here's the thing, though . . . I have a lot
of B.B. and while I did listen to some of it during the LP Project, I failed to make any notes and I'm now several weeks out from some of those listens. So B.B. ain't gonna get the write-up he deserves. And he's very deserving because he was fantastic and everyone should love him. Always happy to discuss more in-depth if folks are interested, of course -- and he definitely seems like the kind of fella most folks are either already familiar with or they just ain't that interested -- but I'd just as soon just plow forward.
So here's a few jumbled thoughts about the B.B. I have on CD:
1) B.B.'s legend is well-deserved. His guitar playing is expressive and masterful, his vocals are fantastic, his range and depth of influence are remarkable, and he was a top-notch songwriter, to boot. He's the real deal. If you don't like B.B. King, you don't like the blues and perhaps you don't like American music at all.
2) His 1992 box set King Of The Blues
is better than most such endeavors. It's heaviest on '60s material but keeps enough of the '50s stuff to serve as an excellent primer, the '70s tracks are well-selected, and it doesn't fall victim to the standard box set conundrum of pretending the latest stuff is just as good as what preceded it until midway through the fourth and final disc (where cheeseball '80s production, crappy soundtrack selections, and endless "guest stars" drag the thing down considerably.) Really well put together and if you only have room for one B.B. set on your music shelves, not a bad way to go.
3) His earliest material is now well-represented on CD, thanks mostly to the kind folks at the UK Ace label. His RPM Hits 1951-1957
and The Best Of The Kent Singles 1958-1971
are both self-explanatory and quite fantastic. I also recommend the 2-on-1 reissue of his first two LPs on the Flair label: Singin' The Blues
and The Blues
4) Of his later studio albums, the one that really blows me away is his crossover album, 1970's Indianola Mississippi Seeds
, which features an unlikely assortment of backing musicians: Joe Walsh, Russ Kunkel, Leon Russell, and (of all people) Carole King. You can listen to the whole thing on YouTube
and I imagine it's a great place for the unitiated to meet King in a context even some who dismiss the blues might find appealing.
5) B.B.'s live recordings are almost uniformly excellent -- he was a fine storyteller and had great rapport with his audiences -- but the classic Live At The Regal
is probably his best, if only for the amazing "Help The Poor", which ain't about what you think. Kudos also to 1991's Live At The Apollo
which proves the dude still had it a-plenty on stage, even if his studio recordings were being dragged down with modern production touches and other concessions to the marketplace.
Next up . . . still lots more Kings! Specifically, the wonderful Ben E.