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Monday, April 12, 2010

B. B. King: B. B. King Wails

B. B. KING: B. B. KING WAILS (1959)

1) Sweet Thing; 2) I've Got Papers On You, Baby; 3) Tomorrow Is Another Day; 4) Come By Here; 5) The Fool; 6) I Love You So; 7) The Woman I Love; 8) We Can't Make It; 9) Treat Me Right; 10) Time To Say Goodbye.

He wails all right, but he does not play all that much. Credited to «B. B. King And His Or­che­s­tra», the record is an even more clearly pronounced effort to promote B. B. as a lounge enter­tai­ner, downplaying his guitar skills and concentrating on the power of his voice. There are, in fact, several tracks on here where he doesn't produce a single lick — such as the ridiculous 'Come By Here', a «family arrangement» of 'Kumbaya' with new (and even sillier) lyrics, or the generic doo-wop of 'I Love You So'.

This cannot work, and it does not work. No one should doubt the powers of B. B. King as a blues singer — always was one of the absolute best out there — but his voice only works to its fullest when he gives it the proper competition from the guitar. Competing with crooners like Clyde Mc­Phatter, or even comparably bulky R'n'B-ers like Big Joe Turner, is, however, an entirely useless thing, and whoever took the decision of drowning King's guitar in orchestral arrangements must have had only recently switched to working in the music industry from an earplug factory.

About half of this surprisingly short album (ten tracks only) is still vintage B. B., with some fiery playing on tracks like 'The Woman I Love' and 'Treat Me Right', but, on the other hand, these are tracks that add little, if anything, to the stylistics already displayed on the previous two albums. 'The Fool' and 'Time To Say Goodbye' were the singles, but neither is a classic; 'The Fool' is also one of those guitarless tracks that should have been left to crooners.

The recent CD reissue of the album is arguably a better proposition than the original, due to the inclusion of a few bonus tracks that have B. B. playing not with his own orchestra, but with Count Basie and Tommy Dorsey instead; the Count Basie version of 'Everyday I Have The Blues', in particular, is probably a must-hear for fans of both artists. Which does not save the record itself from a disappointed thumbs down, regardless.

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