B. B. KING: THERE MUST BE A BETTER WORLD SOMEWHERE (1981)
1) Life Ain't Nothing But A Party; 2) Born Again Human; 3) There Must Be A Better World Somewhere; 4) The Victim; 5) More, More, More; 6) You're Going With Me.
There must be a... strange atypical sound to this album that I cannot quite put my finger on, making it at least a good candidate for King's most «subtly curious» pieces of the new decade. With only six songs, most of which intentionally — and intentionally absurdly — crash the three/four minute barrier for no logical reason, and the same meandering, wobbly, slow tempo on four out of six, it's almost as if King saw to it that everyone was properly stoned for the sessions, or, at least, stripped of focus. Including himself.
This is probably why, every now and then, the songs not just cease to be showcases for Lucille — after all, King is well known for his modest handling of the spotlight — but become sprawling brass battles between saxes, trumpets, and trombones; sometimes the purple elephants take over, and the band suddenly thinks they are The Glenn Miller Orchestra. It happens at the end of the first song, then is immediately repeated at the beginning of the second, and on we go. Then it sort of dawns on the big old guy that he is here to play his guitar, and the blues is back, but the Glenn Miller guys aren't giving up too soon, resulting in something midway from polyphony to cacophony, all of it over a stumbling drum pattern whose bearer is just as drunk as everyone else.
Okay, I may be inventing things here. Actually, the playing is quite collected — it was simply a not too successful effort to explain that King never used to sound quite like this, good and bad judgements aside. And I have a pretty good idea of who might be the major disturber of the peace: Malcolm John Rebennack, Jr., commonly known as Dr. John, credited here both as a piano player and one of the chief songwriters, as well as producer. If anyone can drag B. B. out of his respectable, but sleazy world of night clubs and bow ties into the disreputable universe of alligators on marijuana, it must be the man. He hasn't done his best, but he did try.
After all, who else would contribute a song entitled 'Life Ain't Nothing But A Party' to the B. B. King canon? And sit behind his back, taking good care that B. B. really gets in the spirit of it and all? This is a fine collaboration between two veterans who have something in common — namely, the ability to just lay back and enjoy life while it ain't over yet — and if only, in between all the enjoyment, they wouldn't be forgetting to play their instruments from time to time, There Must Be... could have become a minor classic of the urban blues genre for both. As it is, their spirits come off as way too seriously diluted by disturbing factors. Still a thumbs up; hard times would be lurking around the corner, but for now, King scored yet another success in evading them — in the light of his collaboration with The Crusaders going sort of sour, exchanging them, even briefly, for Dr. John was the smartest move he could have gone for in 1981, and he did go for it.
Check "There Must Be A Better World Somewhere" (CD) on Amazon