B. B. KING: LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL (1999)
1) Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens; 2) Is You Is, Or Is You Ain't (My Baby); 3) Beware, Brother, Beware; 4) Somebody Done Changed The Lock On My Door; 5) Ain't That Just Like A Woman; 6) Cho Choo Ch'Boogie; 7) Buzz Me; 8) Early In The Mornin'; 9) I'm Gonna Move To The Outskirts Of Town; 10) Jack, You're Dead!; 11) Knock Me A Kiss; 12) Let The Good Times Roll; 13) Caldonia; 14) It's A Great, Great Pleasure; 15) Rusty Dusty Blues; 16) Sure Had A Wonderful Time Last Night; 17) Saturday Night Fish Fry; 18) Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out.
Ten years on, this album has obviously lost any relevance it might have ever possessed, but in 1999 it may have done a decent job of introducing a handful of young B. B. King fans (yes, the brand name does indeed attract young fans on a continuous basis) to the legacy of Louis Jordan, a whoppin' eighteen cuts from which are faithfully covered here by King, assisted on piano — and, once, on vocals — by none other than Dr. John.
Naturally, Louis Jordan was as much of a seasoned pro and underrated genius at his schtick — jump blues and swing — as B. B. King was at his; naturally, it is just as unlikely for B. B. King to excel at Jordan-style jazz as it would have been unlikely for Jordan to excel at King-style blues. That B. B. was a devout fan of Jordan is beyond doubt: he'd already covered 'Let The Good Times Roll' on many an occasion, and his entertainment style borrowed lots of its easy-going elements from Jordan's. But to do an entire album of Jordan tunes, including prime Louis cuts whose musical table tennis between Jordan and his band is supposed to take one's breath away like nothing else, that takes quite a bit of gall. How the man came up with the idea in the first place, we'll never know. The big questions are — (a) does he pull it off? and (b) what's the payoff?
Surprisingly, it all works. Had B. B. concentrated on Jordan's slow blues stuff, such as 'I'm Gonna Move To The Outskirts Of Town' or the album-closing 'Nobody Knows You' (which Jordan never «owned» as such but, apparently, covered), he would have turned it into just another blues album — a regularly good blues album, perhaps, well suited to King's style and persona, but it would be rather silly to call it a Louis Jordan tribute album. On the contrary, most of the album is devoted to Jordan's fast, rollickin' numbers that give B. B. a chance to flash his boogie licks — a chance that he doesn't use nearly as often as he should, usually ceding the spotlight to Dr. John and the brass section and concentrating on the singing.
This is where he is bound to lose: no matter how easy-going and inspired his backing band is, nobody can beat the original Tympany Five, and no matter how convincing and authentic B. B. is in his phrasing, he wasn't born with it the way Jordan always seemed to be. B. B.'s guitar and Dr. John's piano are the two edges that they have over the original, but the original was all about singing and brass interplay — it's a little like trying to improve on Chuck Berry by adding a master church organ player to 'Brown Eyed Handsome Man'.
It is admirable that the end result is as much fun as it really is, but, honestly, at best Let The Good Times Roll is a one-time listen to admire the man's lively spirit: let us not forget that the man was a whoppin' seventy-four years old while boppin' and groovin' to the merry sounds of 'Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens' (in comparison, Jordan was sixty-seven when he died, and pretty much stopped boppin' and groovin' upon reaching the age of fifty). For that alone, it definitely deserves a thumbs up, and now go do yourself a favour — pick up one of those cheap Jordan compilations available everywhere, and 'Let The Good Times Roll'!
Check "Let The Good Times Roll" on Amazon
Check "Let The Good Times Roll" (MP3) on Amazon