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Monday, August 16, 2010

B. B. King: In London

B. B. KING: IN LONDON (1971)

1) Caldonia; 2) Blue Shadows; 3) Alexis' Boogie; 4) We Can't Agree; 5) Ghetto Woman; 6) Wet Hayshark; 7) Part Time Love; 8) Power Of The Blues; 9) Ain't Nobody Home.

A solid recording betrayed by high expectations. Following the early 1970s trend of teaming up vintage old bluesmen with the new generation of British blues-rockers (Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf and a few other veterans joined the fray as well), B. B. goes to London, gets chain-linked with pretty much everyone the recording people could catch unawares, and records a friendly jam session that is... merely decent.

It is better for us all not to know, or radically forget who exactly plays what on which track (the credits list no fewer than twenty eight backers for Lucille and her man). Instead, major blues fans may just agree in between themselves that 'Caldonia' rocks pretty well for a mid-size party to be entertained in between all the skinny-dipping; that 'Blue Shadows' and 'Ghetto Woman', with mo­derate success, recreate the smoky gloom of 'Thrill', especially the latter with its inventive strings arrangement; that 'Alexis' Boogie' gives you a rare chance to hear the King churn it out on the acoustic (unless, of course, that is not the King at all, but then why would it be on a King record?); that 'Power Of The Blues' is no 'Blues Power' (hands up for Clapton); and that the organ playing lends a nice extra shade to 'Ain't Nobody Home'.

But if one starts winding up, as in "Peter Green is here and I can't even tell where! Are all these guys just wetting their pants in the presence of the Lord?", etc., then, of course, In London is a mighty failure and all that money it took to transport B. B. across the Atlantic should have rather gone to the poor (not to mention that there are so many people playing on here, everyone's share of royalties could hardly have covered even bathroom expenses).

In any case, with a set-up like this, at worst, you get «mediocre» results; a blues session recorded in 1971 between B. B. and British rock royalty could lack the proper spark of inspiration, but it couldn't be anything less than professional and tasteful — the production- and age-induced rut into which rootsy music would sink by the middle of the decade had not set in yet. So, if not par­ticularly exciting, this is all adequately listenable; thumbs up.

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