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The fourth release in our extensive CD reissue series of B.B. King's classic LPs for the Crown label between 1957 and 1963, with eight bonus tracks. This LP was originally called "B.B. King" but was then retitled "The Soul Of B.B. King".
By Tony Collins
The original, rarely heard LP, titled simply "B.B. King" when it appeared around October 1963, was the twelfth and last of B. B.'s albums to be issued on Crown. For later LP reissues it was renamed The Soul Of B.B. King, a title that reflected the spirit of the age (and was less confusing for record buyers). Lest there be any doubt, let it be said straight away that this is a blues album from start to finish, with not a soul tune or a ballad to be heard. B.B. brings his usual level of intensity to every performance, singing and playing as if this take might be the one to give him his next hit. You might say that's the real soul of B.B. King.
By late 1963 it was almost two years since B.B. had left Modern Records to join ABC-Paramount, so the album was compiled from the vast stockpile of material that he left behind. Rather more than half of the tracks were recorded in the 1960s, while the remainder came from the previous decade. It's a long way, stylistically and chronologically, from the doomy Please Remember Me, a 1952 Houston recording that uses the template of his first big hit 3 O'Clock Blues, to the romping You Never Know, a Maxwell Davis production from the 1960s with punchy brass and perky organ. But once one gets used to the musical diversity, the album stands up well. Highlights for this listener include the shuffle Going Home, the instrumental House Rocker, which shows B.B.'s debt to T-Bone Walker, and the storming big band number Shake Yours.
The eight bonus tracks, mostly new to Ace CD, were produced by Maxwell Davis in the 1960s. Taken as a whole, they match, perhaps even surpass, the quality of the original album. Three titles appeared on Kent 45s: Just A Dream, The Road I Travel (a reworking of Roy Brown's Hard Luck Blues), and Love, Honor And Obey. (How did this little gem escape reissue until now?) Eyesight To The Blind is the alternative version, first issued on the Kent LP "The Jungle", without the overdubbed horns heard on the Kent single. The quality of the remaining tracks only emphasises the overall excellence of B.B. King's output from this period. Who would have thought that A Woman Don't Care could remain unissued until 1991 (and then appear only in Japan) or that this version of Tampa Red's Green And Lucky Blues, with its sparse but effective arrangement, would only now be seeing the light of day?
Eighteen tracks of prime B.B. King in better-than-ever sound at mid-price, intelligently compiled as part of a series that looks set to be the largest and most comprehensive reissue project ever devoted to a bluesman. We've never had it so good.