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Monday, September 13, 2010

B. B. King: King Size

B. B. KING: KING SIZE (1977)

1) Don't You Lie To Me; 2) I Wonder Why; 3) I Just Wanna Make Love To You; 4) Your Lovin' Turned Me On; 5) Slow And Easy; 6) Got My Mojo Working; 7) Walking In The Sun; 8) Mother For Ya; 9) The Same Love That Made Me Laugh; 10) It's Just A Matter Of Time.

In between 1973 and 1977, King somehow cut down on studio material, releasing a couple live albums in tandem with blueswailer Bobby Bland (who, contrary to one's instinctive predilection for puns, is not really as bland as one would expect him to be) and a couple compilations. When he finally returned with King Size in 1977, nobody really needed him any more; his music had completely gone off the cutting edge, and since then, most of his hits have been superstar duets (of which the cunning old fox has had plenty, but at least it is a less generally questionable way of making money than advertising with Burger King).

This, however, does not mean that no post-1973 album from Old King B. B. merits listening. This particular recording, assembled from several sessions with mostly unknown players, is, for instance, pretty swell. Why? Well, it's probably got the longest version of 'Don't You Lie To Me' ever recorded — were Chuck Berry to duckwalk all the way through it, the results would have laid to rest every single «if I walked this way...» joke in the world — and it's got a modern take on the dirty old blues 'Mother Fuyer' (from the same old stock of thinly veiled, but technically unsuable rhythm'n'blues classics as Bull Moose Jackson/Aerosmith's 'Big Ten Inch Record') — and, hearken to this, it's got the only disco rearrangement of 'Got My Mojo Working' that I know of. Surely that would mean something, to hear one king of the blues paying tribute to another king of the blues with a dorky disco bassline behind his back.

Anyway, most of the material is pretty old, and King does not play a whole lot of blistering guitar, but the arrangements work, and the emphasis is very much on real, live, interactive playing. At the height of the disco era, one could have expected far worse. It's all smooth and slick, but the grooves are non-boring; in comparison, B. B.'s colleague Albert King's albums from the same pe­riod are far more depressing, recorded by people who clearly only did this for the money. King Size, at its worst, is steadily professional, and at its best — e. g. the little bit of jamming that fol­lows 'I Just Wanna Make Love To You' — is as incendiary as a B. B. King track can ever be.

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