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Monday, May 3, 2010

B. B. King: My Kind Of Blues


B. B. KING: MY KIND OF BLUES (1960)

1) You Done Lost Your Good Thing Now; 2) Mr. Pawn Broker; 3) Understand; 4) Someday Baby; 5) Driving Wheel; 6) Walking Dr. Bill; 7) My Own Fault, Darling; 8) Cat Fish Blues; 9) Hold That Train; 10) Please Set A Date.

Somewhat of a turning point on B. B.'s personal highway; according to his own memory (which has little choice but to be trusted, given an utter lack of independent sources), this was his first al­bum recorded as a proper album — over one single recording session with one single small back­ing band — and in full accordance with his own vision of the blues. My Kind Of Blues indeed: the title is far more meaningful in this instance than all the Great B. B. Kings in the world.

It is not hard to believe the story. If you want to hear a fresh, young, not-yet-overweight B. B. King sing and play stark blues — no lounge entertainment, no spirituals, no experimentation with teenage music styles etc. — My Kind Of Blues is the obvious choice. There is no single particu­lar standout; technically, the «heavy» bit is the opening number, 'You Done Lost Your Good Thing Now', which takes five minutes of intense build-up to deliver its point, but it is hardly any more jaw-dropping than the rest of the record.

Which is hardly jaw-dropping at all, to tell the truth, but merely one of those basic delights which make the enlightened blues fan happy. All 12-bar, all formula-worshipping, but with B. B. acting in the role of B. B. to fill in the function variable, My Kind Of Blues is unassailable as long as we agree that B. B.'s guitar playing style itself is unassailable. Because, finally, he is given plenty of room to express himself, unconfined to the limitations of the 2:30 single and unhampered by any fat brass section.

Come to think of it, the first thirty seconds of 'You Done Lost...' may almost be announcing the start of a new era for the electric guitar — that of the loud, pompous, soulful blues guitar intro­duction, abused by millions since then but, arguably, never truly surpassed. And although none of the solos that King plays on this album are as flashy as the ones he would soon be throwing aro­und on stage, most of them deserve to be listened to with special attention. Sometimes he starts playing against the melody. Sometimes he toys around with the volume, puncturing the value of short bits of silence within long bits of loudness. All of the time he is being flawless — not a sin­gle mistake, not a single clumsy transition, and all this within lengthy series of relatively complex licks that explore all the possibilities offered to them by the limited time frame.

All of this has been replicated and surpassed many times since 1960, so that today My Kind Of Blues can be revered only for its historical importance. But enjoyed it can be purely for itself. Unquestionably a thumbs up.

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