Step forward the eighth set in Ace's mid-price series of vintage B.B. King recordings based on his albums released on the Crown label. Between 1957 and 1963, the Bihari brothers' dime store label released 12 albums, comprised of singles from their RPM and Kent labels, tracks from the vaults, plus dedicated album sessions.
Despite the "cheap and cheerful" production values, the B.B. King Crown albums became collectors' items due to the high quality of B.B.'s recordings and the eye-catching artwork. The LPs were a discographical headache until Ace was able to unravel the details.
"Singin' The Blues" was issued as Crown 5020 in spring 1957 and featured some of B.B.'s best-loved songs up to that point. The LP included four #1 R&B hits: '3 O'Clock Blues' and 'You Know I Love You' (1952), 'Please Love Me' (1953) and 'You Upset Me Baby' (1954); four other top ten hits; plus 'Blind Love' from 1953 and covers of Tampa Red's 'Crying Won't Help You' (1955) and Gatemouth Moore's 'Did You Ever Love A Woman' from 1956. To fill out the album, a superior alternate take of 'Sweet Little Angel' was included.
As with the other releases in this "Crown" series, compiler John Broven has added obscure tracks, unissued sides and alternate takes. The bonus cuts here feature B.B. with the great Maxwell Davis Orchestra. There are both sides of RPM 425: 'Jump With You Baby' / 'Lonely And Blue' and 'Ruby Lee,' all from 1955. And seeing release for the first time are five alternate takes including the originally unissued 'Whole Lotta Meat'. The listening experience blends into one, literally making this an Early Best Of B.B. King.
As John Broven observes in his notes: "In 1957 "Singin' The Blues" gave the first real indication that B.B. King was destined to be a major star. Fast forward to 2005 (almost 50 years!) and plans are afoot to celebrate B.B.'s 80th birthday year with the opening of his museum in Indianola, Mississippi, a new duets CD, two books and a BBC radio documentary. The reissue of his landmark debut Crown LP could not be better timed."
By TONY BURKE
Tony Burke is the Editor of the long running specialist blues and R&B magazine, Blues & Rhythm. B&R celebrates its 200th issue this summer. Congratulations from all at Ace Records.