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Blues In My Heart, CD (£7.43)
The fifth release in our extensive CD reissue series of B.B. King's classic LPs for the Crown label between 1957 and 1963 shows the blues guitar maestro in a small combo setting. With seven previously unissued bonus tracks.
by Alan Empson
(Reviews Editor, Juke Blues)
It would be difficult to come up with a more apt title for a B.B. King album. Throughout his extensive career, the blues have always been close to his heart. This, the penultimate of his twelve albums on Crown Records, was issued in early 1963, (and later reissued as A Heart Full Of Blues"), although the tracks were probably recorded in late 1961 as part of the stockpiling process before B.B. went to ABC. The term 'stockpiling' suggests a perfunctory churning-out of material, and the similarity in tone and tempo of the songs here might at first glance uphold that suggestion. But listen closer.
B.B. was incapable of a mechanical performance-.-each song is invested with a sincerity in the vocals, that ranges from quiet authority to the heights of emotional intensity. For the most part, these are songs that invoke sadness, but without pity-.-there is always an air of defiance in the face of despair. The unmistakable guitar figures never become tiresome, as B.B. demonstrates his effective less-is-more approach, tasteful and emotive-.-an object lesson to wannabe guitarists. The small combo setting gives B.B. plenty of room to manoeuvre, and the subtle approach is enhanced by Maxwell Davis' gentle keyboard playing and Plas Johnson's complementary tenor saxophone.
An interesting feature for the long-time B.B. King enthusiast is the fact that most of the material here is unfamiliar. Even a song such as Downhearted, better known as How Blue Can You Get, has, despite Johnson's weaving sax, a straight-forward simplicity that contrasts with B.B.'s later, more dramatic, versions. Strange Things may strike a chord, as it has been covered and reworked as Love Me Or Leave Me, by amongst others, James Cotton.
As with the other releases in this series, bonus tracks are added-.-in this case, there are seven previously unissued sides, along with an extended version of the Kent 45 My Sometime Baby. All these tracks are taken from a similar time period as the Crown album, and the overall small combo feel is retained throughout. After the relentless slow-shuffle, deep blues of the first ten tracks, it is good to encounter the uptempo drive of Your Good Lovin' Man, or the sheer joie de vivre of My Baby's An Angel and My Baby's Dynamite (no relation to Tampa Red's She's Dynamite, cut by B.B. in 1951). The fact that these sides have not been issued previously does not mean that they are in any way inferior - just an indication of how much material the Bihari brothers had accumulated. Loving You In Vain, for instance, is as good as anything that did see the light of day.
This series is filling out nicely, and is all part of Ace's master plan to honour the greatest and most influential blues man of all time. A man with genius in his fingertips, and a heart full of blues."