B. B. KING: LOVE ME TENDER (1982)
1) One Of Those Nights; 2) Love Me Tender; 3) Don't Change On Me; 4) (I'd Be) A Legend In My Time; 5) You've Always Got The Blues; 6) Nightlife/Please Send Me Someone To Love; 7) You And Me, Me And You; 8) Since I Met You Baby; 9) Time Is A Thief; 10) A World I Never Made.
As skippable as this particular album is, one certainly cannot accuse B. B. of stalling. One year prior to Love Me Tender he was munching on gumbo in the company of Dr. John, before that, tried to save funky soul from disco clutches in the company of the appropriately named Crusaders, and now we discover him in Nashville, with the local playing and singing pros steering him through a series of country-pop, country-R'n'B, and occasional country-blues standards.
Admittedly, the man himself had high hopes for the record, and, in his own liner notes, described it as one of the best albums in his career. But, in all fairness, this has to do with the uncomfortable fact that King always thought of himself as at least as good a singer as a guitar player, if not better (hence all the Sings Spirituals records and other crap), and Love Me Tender is, again, for those who love their guru when he opens his mouth, not when he jerks his fingers.
The big question, of course, is whether you want to hear another version of 'Love Me Tender' in the first place, let alone from the cavities of somebody whose pet dream of becoming a black Sinatra you might not necessarily endorse. And also, whether you want to hear it played à la Eighties Nashville, in which the professionalism and versatility of country music had by then become as corrupted by laziness and the big bucks as classic R'n'B had deteriorated at Atlantic Studios. For every bit of slide guitar plucked with the utmost indifference, you get cheap synth orchestration, cheap chiming keyboards, and a rhythm section that seems to have confused minimalism with obligatory hack-work.
The irony of it all is that B. B. King really tries hard: apart from the meaningless covers of the title track and 'Since I Met You Baby', and a strange, unneccessary decision to segue 'Nightlife' into 'Please Send Me Someone To Love', he sings most of these songs in a heartfelt, confessional mode as if it all really mattered. But the complete lack of any serious effort other than pure «pro forma» on the part of his musicians kills the spirit over and over again — to the effect that the only track that made me take notice was 'You And Me, Me And You', one that dumped all intimacy and concentrated on a funky dance groove. Light, expendable, but at least fun, which is more than could be said about the rest of this boredom. Thumbs down.