B. B. KING: BLUES IS KING (1967)
1) Introduction; 2) Waitin' On You; 3) Introduction; 4) Gambler's Blues; 5) Tired Of Your Jive; 6) Night Life; 7) Buzz Me; 8) Don't Answer The Door; 9) Blind Love; 10) I Know What You're Puttin' Down; 11) Baby Get Lost; 12) Gonna Keep On Loving You.
Quite a few fans consider this rough follow-up to Live At The Regal as the superior experience, and they might just as well be right. The only problem is, despite being a fully official album, Blues Is King plays all the way through at solid bootleg quality — the sound is awfully thin and sparse. You do get to hear all of the instruments, but you hardly get to be overwhelmed by anything close to a coherent wall-of-sound.
Still, this is quite definitely a marking-time record; where Live At The Regal finally showed us the proper way to enjoy B. B. King's music, Blues Is King is the first firm proof of his ability to make the transition from one musical era into another without losing any of his relevancy or public appeal. Recorded in late 1966, at a time when white guitar heroes like Beck and Clapton had already started to revolutionize the role of their instrument in the world of pop music, and when the world was one step away from Jimi's stage appearance, Blues Is King shows that B. B. was firmly hip to the times, willing to get louder, shriller, and even a little dirtier to keep up with all the young British whippersnappers.
The singing is as solid as always, but the spotlight is 100% on «Lucille», which even gets its own introduction in the spoken credits section; most of the tracks feature mid-size extended solos that keep getting more and more complex and inventive and intense and «talkative». No single track stands out — curiously, the set list does not include any of his bigger hits — and there are no pompous blues medleys to underscore the «regal» status of the man, but everything is as sweaty/gritty as it could possibly get at the time, and the saxophone/organ backing is no slouch, either (especially awesome are the sax/guitar duets such as during the coda to 'Buzz Me').
Actually, the set list is somewhat more monotonous than on Regal: slow blues and fast blues is all you get to hear, so, coupled with the tinny sound, this may not register at the top range of King's live albums. But for the diehard fan, this may be the one particular B. B. King experience to trump all the others: stark, staunch, uncompromising, loud, and who cares about the sound quality? the dirtier it is, the higher the chance it'll be your own personal love affair with the LP and no-fuckin'-body other's. Thumbs up, in support of this elitist idea.