‘Ladies and Gentlemen… Mr B.B. King’ 2LP Vinyl Release Review


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When B.B. King passed away earlier this year, not only was I really sad that the world had lost one of it’s true guitar greats, but I was really angry at myself. Angry, because I had the opportunity to see the great man play the last time he was in this country, but wasn’t able to make the time to go to his show. There was swearing…

So now all we are left with are his recordings.

“B.B. King. One of America’s musical treasures whose stature grew to an unassailable, international level. His warm, downhome vocal style, his distinctive “talking” blues guitar playing, and his songs that sing of love’s joys and hardships – “Sweet Sixteen”, “How Blue Can You Get?”, “The Thrill Is Gone” and countless others – are all indelibly imprinted elements in the modern musical heritage.”  – Ashley Kahn. 

Anybody who has even a passing interest in blues music will know B.B. King and the huge impact he made since the release of his debut single ‘Miss Martha King’ way back in 1949. Obviously there are many compilations documenting B.B’s extraordinary 65 year career, the majority of which are available on CD’s and digital downloads. However, there is something properly righteous about the release of a B.B. King retrospective on good ol’ fashioned 180g vinyl.

The 17 tracks on ‘Ladies and Gentlemen… Mr B.B. King’ document much of King’s greatest studio and live work. First track ‘How Blue Can You Get’, which King originally recorded as ‘Downhearted’ for his 1963 album Blues in My Heart, sets the mood perfectly. And if it were any other artist, this song would set the bar impossibly high for the rest of the album. But this is Riley B. King we’re talking about, and he’s just getting’ started!

An early live highlight is King’s performance of ‘Worry Worry’ at the Cook County Jail in 1971. His banter with the ‘Ladies’ in the audience is just brilliant. From a personal point of view, the collection is sprinkled with many of my own personal favourite B.B. King songs, chief amongst them being the incomparable ‘The Thrill Is Gone’. ‘Stormy Monday Blues’, ‘Blues Man’ and ‘Caldonia’ are there also and for me, epitomise everything that is great about B.B. King.

As good as this collection is though, there’s something missing.  And that’s one of King’s duets with Gary Moore. Given that B.B’s collaboration with U2 on ‘When Love Comes To Town’ is included, it makes such an omission all the more disappointing, and mysterious. Rights issues perhaps? Whatever the reason, for me it’s a big miss.

The choice of last song of the collection on the other hand, couldn’t have been more apt. King’s cover of Blind Lemon Jefferson’s ‘See That My Grave Is Kept Clean’ is a fabulous, stripped back, bluesy, gospel, masterpiece. If you want to go out on a high note, then this song is the way to go. And I’m sure Mr King would have approved!

The 2 LP’s are housed in a beautiful luxe box including a 72 page silver gilded hardback book, featuring essays from Grammy Award-winning producer / journalist Ashley Kahn and producer Dick Shurman.

Santa’s list just got a little bit longer…