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Monday, June 7, 2010

B. B. King: B. B. King

B. B. KING: B. B. KING (1963)

1) Going Home; 2) The Letter; 3) You Never Know; 4) Please Remember Me; 5) Come Back Baby; 6) You Won't Listen; 7) Sundown; 8) You Shouldn't Have Left; 9) House Rocker/Boogie Rock; 10) Shake Yours.

Sometime in late 1962 or early 1963, B. B. King switched record labels, relocating from RPM to ABC; in the long run, this turned out to be a crucial move for his career, but at the moment it just seemed like exchanging three decent letters of the alphabet for three other ones (although symbo­lically placed at the top of the alphabet). Consequently, some sources claim that B. B. King, ano­ther in a series of album titles so absolutely stunning in their inexhaustible creativity, was relea­sed on the RPM label already after the man's departure, consisting of a mish-mash of tracks re­corded at various sessions spanning from 1957 to 1963.

On the surface, this does not make that much difference considering that most B. B. King albums for RPM were just like that. But with these ten songs, the mix-up is arguably felt sharper than ever, because the sound quality wobbles quite drastically from track to track, indicating that the studio was really scraping out the bottom of the bottom. Surprisingly, if we disregard the lack of technical coherence, B. B. King has a pretty good pacing and diversity to it: fast blues, slow blues, and ballads alternate quite intelligently, and King's playing is no less incendiary than we already know it, so, despite the understandable lack of hits, the album gives you a pretty good overview of B. B.'s strong sides, and cleverly hides most of the weak ones.

The highlight is 'Going Home', an early example of tight, biting blues-rock, in fact, one of the first signs that B. B. King might be capable of adapting to the rougher, brutal times lying straight ahead (although the brass backing still manages to Vegasify the proceedings). As the album ope­ner, it gives an impression of looking into the future, which then slowly mutates into the impres­sion of not forgetting the past: at the end of the album, 'Shake Yours' is a completely traditional jump blues number, a little bit of shy guitar drowned in a sea of shouting and ear-bursting trom­bone and trumpet explosions in Wynonie Harris style.

Of course, one should not overestimate the diversity of an album where four slow blues tracks (three of them — in a row) start off with the exact same chord sequence, but, still, in the context of King's over­all output for RPM/Crown, B. B. King is as good a way to say good-bye as it was possible. And, just to keep up the good old tradition, note that later on it was occasionally re-released under the much more memorable title The Soul Of B. B. King.

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