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Monday, June 14, 2010

B. B. King: Mr. Blues

B. B. KING: MR. BLUES (1963)

1) Young Dreamers; 2) By Myself; 3) Chains Of Love; 4) A Mother's Love; 5) Blues At Midnight; 6) Sneakin' Around; 7) On My Road Of Honor; 8) Tomorrow Night; 9) My Baby's Comin' Home; 10) Guess Who; 11) You Ask Me; 12) I'm Gonna Sit In 'Til You Give In.

Six of one, half dozen of another; what is the deep sense of changing labels if you keep doing the same old shit? On most of his first album for ABC Records, «Mr. Blues» does not even pick up the guitar; instead, once again they try to market him as a soulful crooner, meaning that the fans will be forced to sit through the orchestrated garbage of 'Young Dreamers' and 'A Mother's Love' in order to get to the scraps of 'Blues At Midnight', the only real blues number on the record with a strong guitar solo (and, ironically, also King's best vocal performance).

If there is some sort of saving grace, it is a feeling of diversity which, for the most part, had been lacking on the Crown albums. One hardcore blues number, three or four rotten ballads, a couple slow-paced R'n'B shouters, some boogie — for B. B.'s usual range this is quite a kaleidoscope. And when he is not pulling an (already sold out) Lonnie Johnson on 'Tomorrow Night', trying to outsweeten the sweetness of the strings, he is pulling a much more effective Big Joe Turner on 'Chains Of Love' (a conscious attempt at repeating the success of the near-identical 'Sweet Six­teen'), or rocking his socks off on 'My Baby's Comin' Home', where the Maxwell Davis Orchestra blends in with his guitar playing to near-perfection.

These are the good points — but it is evident that they do not outweigh the bad ones, at the very least, there is nothing whatsoever on Mr. Blues to suggest that King's future career would be so radically different from his first decade of hits and misses. At the very least, Mr. Blues shows quite clearly that his creative growth would owe much more to changing expectations and shif­ting public tastes than to any particularities in his record contract. In short, God bless the Sixties (which, to make this point clear, had not yet begun in 1963).

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