Friday, May 15, 2015

B.B. King

B.B. King was called "Ambassador of the Blues" for a reason.  No other Blues man brought the genre to a wider audience.  His first record charted in 1951, and he was still touring in 2014.  King wasn't a flashy guitarist, but his notes matched his vocals.  Often passionate, at times to the point.  It was a style that would influence many Rock guitarists throughout the decades. He was as beloved a figure in popular music as Louis Armstrong.  And like Armstrong was for many the face of Jazz, King was the same for Blues.

Everyone knows "Thrill Is Gone" the apocalyptic 1969 single that made King a household name. And his collaborations with Eric Clapton and U2.  But I want to steer you to his recordings from the 50's/early 60's.  Songs like "3 O'Clock Blues", "Sweet Little Angel" and "Everyday I Have The Blues" set the template for modern Blues.
The best of those years is best captured on 2005's Ultimate Collection (Virgin) a superlative set of 50's/early 60's sides.

If you want his "Thrill Is Gone" era hits, there are dozens of comps easy to find.  1992' King of the Blues" box set can be found cheap.    But I think King was best captured on 2 live albums.  1965's Live at the Regal is a must-own.  And 1971's Live In Cook County Jail is just as good.

B.B. King was one of the last of the great Blues men from the pre-Rock era.  He went out the way he always wanted.  Touring and playing and spreading the Blues.  His final wishes granted.
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