B. B. KING: REFLECTIONS (2003)
1) Exactly Like You; 2) On My Word Of Honor; 3) I Want A Little Girl; 4) I'll String Along With You; 5) I Need You; 6) A Mother's Love; 7) (I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons; 8) Neighborhood Affair; 9) Tomorrow Night; 10) There I've Said It Again; 11) Always On My Mind; 12) Cross My Heart; 13) What A Wonderful World.
It's been quite some time since B. B. concentrated exclusively on his sentimental side, so he can certainly be excused for spending a well-tucked evening with The Great American Cornbook on his lap. More than that, he can be excused for triggering a predictable series of associations: «Old time balladry» + «78 years of age» + «an album called Reflections» → «nostalgia» / «looking back on that long long road» / «that old, tired noble heart» → RESPECT.
None of which surmises that anyone will ever be interested in hearing this album more than once — the usual fate for about 70% of King's output, for sure, but Reflections doesn't even make for decent party music this time, unless you're talking about your grandparents' high school reunion party, and even in that case it is not clear why they would want to hear B. B. King impersonating Nat King Cole, Armstrong, and Dionne Warwick instead of the real thing.
Factual data are scarce and uninteresting. The arrangements are loud and bombastic, with lots of brass and strings and very little guitar, although, to be honest, when B. B. is in the mood for a soulful solo, he does it admirably well, e. g. 'On My Word Of Honor'. There is a strangely large amount of steel and slide guitar, too, which may be puzzling for those who are well aware of the man's monogamy, but, apparently, most, if not all, of those parts are played by wiz kid Doyle Bramhall II. It gives the proceedings a slightly Nashvillified whiff, too, which is OK by me — anything to take the emphasis off that high school ballroom spirit is welcome.
Maybe — a very uncertain maybe — but still, maybe the album could have been turned into something vaguely more interesting had its production not been entrusted to Simon Climie, the man almost single-handedly responsible for strangling Eric Clapton's mid-1990s comeback in the cradle and, consequently, for making the Clapton/King collaboration (Riding With The King) ten times less the experience that it could have been. The man has an unparalleled gift for sucking life, energy, and brawn out of anything — he could probably make Manowar sound like Bread without them noticing. On the other hand, it is not clear how exactly would it be possible to breathe new life into those dusty old standards, especially if the artist behind them is a dusty old relic himself (no offense). Thumbs down — avoid unless you're on a really acute sentimental kick.
Check "Reflections" (CD) on Amazon
Check "Reflections" (MP3) on Amazon