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Monday, October 18, 2010

B. B. King: Blues 'n' Jazz

B. B. KING: BLUES 'N' JAZZ (1983)

1) Inflation Blues; 2) Broken Heart; 3) Sell My Monkey; 4) Heed My Warning; 5) Teardrops From My Eyes; 6) Rain­bow Riot; 7) Darlin' You Know I Love You; 8) Make Love To Me; 9) I Can't Let You Go.

The perfect antidote to the «plastic country» of Love Me Tender — a much-needed return to the kind of generic blues-de-luxe that has always been owned by the man. Unfortunately, this also means that you get no surprises, and that the resulting LP really works best if, together with me, you are on this chronological journey through the man's career. Otherwise, there is really no rea­son whatsoever to prefer it to similar records from the previous three decades — except for, per­haps, reasonably clearer production.

The whole thing is very strictly Chicago blues, with a couple retro forays into jump blues ('Sell My Monkey', although, strictly speaking, this is still not far from Chicago, considering, e. g., El­more James' love for the style), a couple re-recordings of older tunes, etc. The sole exception is King's unexpected cover of the early Atlantic R'n'B classic, 'Teardrops From My Eyes'. B. B. is certainly no Ruth Brown (he does attempt to give the lyrics a more «genuine» reading than the former Miss Rhythm, shaky voice and all, but I still vote for the lady's exalted, sexy-as-hell deli­very instead), but he gives the song an exquisite guitar backing instead of the original brass ac­companiment, and there is an extended vibraphone solo, of all things — did you think the «jazz» in the title was just an empty flourish? — that makes it a pretty unique track for Mr. King.

But even 'Teardrops' is an old song, and, altogether, the King has not been so straightforwardly nostalgic since... well, since the times when sounding this-a way was anything but nostalgic. (Leaving aside, that is, the fact that the lyrics to the old number 'Inflation Blues' must have sounded fairly relevant back in the day — come to think of it, here is one song that may never want to go out of style). Re­listening to this living relic must have been an aftershock to the man himself — the only explana­tion for why he had to go out and produce one of his worst ever albums immediately afterward. Why? Because nothing gets people, particularly bluesmen, in the mood for brutal crap as much as the acute feeling of sounding outdated.

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