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Monday, April 19, 2010

B. B. King: Sings Spirituals


1) Precious Lord; 2) Save A Seat For Me; 3) Ole Time Religion; 4) Swing Low Sweet Chariot; 5) Servant's Prayer; 6) Jesus Gave Me Water; 7) I Never Heard A Man; 8) Army Of The Lord; 9) I Am Willing To Run All The Way; 10) I'm Working On The Building.

Far be it from us to say that B. B. King is a poor singer — he has a nice, endearing, sometimes al­most silky tone that never grates or annoys.

Further be it from us to say that B. B. King is not a spiritually sensible man — regardless of how much money he has made and how much of it he has not given away to the poor, there is little reason to doubt his sincere faith in the Lord (who has, among other things, provided him with all that money).

Still further be it from us to say that B. B. King has no right, or reason, or business recording an entire album of gospel tunes if he feels like it — especially considering that, every once in a while, everyone deserves at least a brief change from the 12-bar mold, and going into gospel is nowhere near as cringeworthy as, say, going into crooning.

And be it as furthest of the furthest from us as possible to say that B. B. King Sings Spirituals is a proverbially bad album. If you have not suffered priest abuse, be it Catholic or Protestant; if you have no 19th century-style racial prejudices; and if you can stand a little musical take on «ol' time religion» propel­led by good singing and good organ playing, the record cannot be put down on its own merits.

None of which, however, prevents me from stating the obvious: I cannot think of a reason why any­one would want to hear, much less own, a B. B. King album with no guitar on it whatsoever. B. B. King is a guitar player, period. If he does not want to play his guitar, let him not play his guitar in front of his parents, his children, his close friends, or his mirror. In this life, B. B. King has one and only one social purpose (that matters, anyway), and that is playing his guitar. I can understand that he did not want to be pigeonholed. I can do nothing about it — I want to pigeon­hole him, and I will pigeonhole him. Call me Dubyah if you will — but this is a thumbs down.


  1. I like the structure of this review. Almost like a sermon. After each paragraph, I wanted to shout, "Yes!" or "It's true!"

    Additionally, I'm amazed that you were able to review (and differentiate between) 40-something B.B. King albums. That's some real reviewing skill. I tried it once with five Smithereens albums and almost went crazy.

    I have been slow catching up to your "new" site, but I always like what I read.

  2. The review is incorrect - there IS guitar playing on at least two tracks - and ultimately disrespectful to a man who had been singing spirituals BEFORE he even discovered the blues. "Save a Seat for Me" is worth the price of admission alone because 1) it's an incredibly moving performance and 2) it shows the roots of many of his blues ballads.