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Monday, September 27, 2010

B. B. King: Take It Home


1) Better Not Look Down; 2) Same Old Story (Same Old Song); 3) Happy Birthday Blues; 4) I've Always Been Lo­ne­ly; 5) Second-Hand Woman; 6) Tonight I'm Gonna Make You A Star; 7) The Beginning Of The End; 8) A Story Everybody Knows; 9) Take It Home.

It's not bad, but something did not click this second time around. Simply put, there is a bit too much Crusaders on the album, and not enough King for me. Midnight Believer was a good mix of styles that gave us casual, non-hardcore listeners the best possible formula: B. B.'s blues es­sence interspersed with various catchy distractions. On Take It Home, the distractions have all but dissolved the essence.

King sings passionately enough, but Lucille, once again, finds itself playing second, if not twen­ty second, fiddle to all of the Crusaders' diddle; on most, perhaps all, of these numbers it's as if no­body had the patience to let the old man find a good, meaningful groove for these songs, and just went along with the second take before he even began getting into the spirit. Who cares anyway, if you're gonna mix that guitar below all the saxes and keyboards and gospel backing vocals?

Which is a pity, because the songs, generally credited to Will Jennings and Joe Sam­ple, are de­cent: nothing too original, mostly just slight modifications of old blues rock and R'n'B warhorses, but nevertheless modified and rearranged to the point of justifying that generic late Seventies fun­ky soul sound (and, once again, not a single swig of disco, although 'A Story Everybody Knows', the cheesiest number on the record, comes somewhat close). The title track is a particularly uplif­ting anthem, the kind of totally by-the-numbers, but still sweet and charming, R'n'B number that today's R'n'B artists have completely lost the knack of churning out — and King is able to let his singing go with the flow, but the guitar playing, alas, seriously lags behind.

The only number here that I find deserving of truly classic status is the short, almost inconspicu­ous 'Beginning Of The End', distinguished by its subtle buildup: first verse rhythmless — second with the rhythm section joining in — third with the brass backup really pushing it, all the way to King's ecstatic final. Up to the point, heavy on the good old guitar sound, and admirably modest. Of course, there is something ominous in the fact that the best song on a 1979 B. B. King album bears such a title, but, after all, the end has to begin somewhere. I cannot bring myself to issuing a thumbs down — I honestly enjoyed most of this platter — but it is still disappointing, consider­ing how lucky King turned out to be in the late seventies, evading the disco temptation and stay­ing firmly routed in the «true sound», and how he failed to make good use of that luck.

Check "Take It Home" (CD) on Amazon
Check "Take It Home" (MP3) on Amazon


  1. This is totally not germane to the posting but I might as well put it here as anywhere. Just came across your massive review site and have to say I'm delighted to find someone with apparently very similar musical instincts to my own (similar, as in not exactly the same, which would be unsettling). I'm glad to discover I'm not the only person in the world to like odd bits of Yes while thinking Anderson is a crashing bore and the most annoying soi-disant lyricist ever to have had the misfortune to be taken seriously by real musicians (though even he, law of averages, manages to have one or two moments), or to see merit in such disparate phenomena as Abba, Procol Harum, 10CC, Genesis, the Stones, Kate Bush, Argent, the Police (Zenyatta, yay, we agree), the Moodies (and Blue Jays) and... well, I could go on. In fact there aren't too many frequent listens of mine which aren't well positioned on your list. A few I would mention: Sparks I couldn't find listed (though I didn't search that carefully), and (with the same proviso) I would respectfully recommend you might dedicate a word or two to The The, whose Soul Mining is rarely out of my speakers for long, or Half Man Half Biscuit, whose music is (intentionally and hilariously) crap, but who have the funniest lyrics ever penned, or, well, this is a long shot and I expect you'll sniff at these, but for pure nostalgia (I'm 49), Supertramp (remember them? Breakfast In America I used to shag endlessly to back in those halcyon student days) and a band called, ach, what was their name, it's gone so they can't have been that good, all I remember is a couple of song titles, Mirror in the Bathroom and Stand Down Margaret, a leftie ska band from the same shagging like rabbits era that I recall had a cool drummer, for the time. Also check out a Spanish band from the 60s called Los Pekenikes, or Pequenikes, not sure of the spelling, they never made it beyond Spain but sooner or later every damn guitarist in the world learns to stumble through one of their pieces, often not knowing it is one of theirs, and they knock the bleedin Shadows into a cocked hat. I was also mildly surprised not to see Rick Wakeman's Journey to the Centre of Utter Boredom not on your list of the worst albums ever. When I bought it I was in a Yes phase, I wanted desperately to like that album, but the guy makes it absolutely impossible: it's the most listener-hating thing I ever heard. Ah, and I am also a Bacharach and a John Barry worshipper, but I expect those two fall outside your remit. And do you have a stance on Tubular Bells? (side 2, obviously: side one is just filler.) Anyway, thanks again. Your site encourages the reader to value his own opinion. You can actually like some prog rock without being an anorak or having acne or even supernumerary nipples: now it's official. I always knew it, somewhere deep down.

    Oh, and the Pretenders. Love 'em to death. And Doris Day. Honest.

  2. Hey, thank you. You missed Sparks, Supertramp, Mike Oldfield, and Wakeman - they are all covered, to a certain extent (but everything will be rewritten anyway, sooner or later). Love your revival of Austro-Hungary, BTW.

  3. I'll go back and check those entries out then. I do think you're a bit hard on poor old Tony Banks. Way I see it, he can turn out a fine, well-crafted song, with a strong melody and thoughtful modulations; all he needs is someone else to write the lyrics (which most of us songwriters do need; real composer-lyricists are a rare breed). That his lyrics are intermittently "preachy" (when they're not just plain silly) is just a reflection of lack of competence in that particular department. I'm a dud lyricist and so mine tend to be too: I squirm when I hear myself singing them. What's more annoying about Banks is that he seems incapable of picking the right keyboard timbre and arranging his stuff to show it off to best effect. And Then There Were Three would have been a much bigger album if he'd taken advice on instrumentation rather than stuck to that one keyboard sound all the way through. So he can't write lyrics and he can't arrange, but so what? A good melody, good playing and consistent creative drive are still things worth appreciating.