Tag Archives: B.B. King

Acclaimed Albums – Live At The Regal by B.B. King

Like I mentioned with the switch over to the Top 1000 list, there are a number of older albums that I listened to as part of a previous blog. This was back in 2009 … and I think my views on music have changed somewhat.

After today, I will have caught up. Cannot believe how much I used to write…

List item: Listen to the 1000 Most Acclaimed Albums
Progress: 311/1000
Title: Live At The Regal
Artist: B.B. King
Year: 1965

Never have I had to listen to an album so much before I started writing a review. This isn’t me putting an early slight on B.B. King’s Live At The Regal but just a comment on how recently I have been doing all my reviews after midnight and this time I just had to say to myself ‘no this is stupid, just do it tomorrow morning’. So that is what I did, but there were first some other tasks that needed performing like washing up and having the remains of last night’s Chinese take away for breakfast. But at least I have listened to this album enough to have an opinion and an awake opinion at that.

Blues is a genre that has begun to be featured on this list with increasing frequency but because of the way that it is arranged it is becoming hard to figure out who in this genre influenced another. I say this because B.B. King is one of those names that I actually knew previously to be a big name in the blues but has an album 4-5 years after Muddy Waters, another name that is associated with the same genre. So I guess I need to see how these two albums match up as I am finding myself with a case of writer’s block here.

Well, I like them both. That’s a good start. With B.B. King there are some amazingly masterful solos on his electric guitar with the wailing reverberating around the venue, yes it’s a live album. The use of these electric instruments is definitely a new occurrence on the list, with the first album really showcasing them being Bringing It All Back HomeAs an artist it really does need to be pointed out that B.B. King has the whole package, he has a powerful voice, can play the guitar like a virtuoso, can write his own material and has such charisma that you can hear him whip the audience into some sort of frenzy. This is actually the first time since Sarah Vaughn’s At Mister Kelly’s where I found myself looking forward to the audience interactions as what has been captured on vinyl/CD/mp3 must inevitably lack some of the effect it would have live, so it’s perfectly understandable how he got everyone to scream his name.

Another major plus point has to be directed at the length of this album. Like with yesterday’s review for A Love Supreme the length is so perfect that you can actually give this album the time to hear from start to end multiple times. The songs are short and punchy so it doesn’t venture into dullness and punctuated with falsetto on tracks like ‘Worry, Worry’, something I can always appreciate. So with such a glittering review of this album what is the catch? Well there really isn’t one. This is without a doubt the best blues album that I have probably ever heard. Maybe an album will arrive in my lap that’ll make me say otherwise, it is not beyond the realms of possibility, but for now it has that ‘honour’.

So that makes this a best of the genre album and yet it doesn’t get a perfect rating from me like Sam Cooke, Dusty Springfield and Jerry Lee Lewis have. The reason for this is probably a bit of a cop-out but in the end a blues album is not one that I would automatically place high on a list of preference. This is still an amazing album and, alongside Muddy Waters, has really changed my opinion on how good the blues can be which is in itself rather impressive.

So, if you are feeling adventurous or like the blues you would be a fool to give this a miss.

1001 Songs – 1969: Part Three

List Item:  Listen to the 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die

Is It Because I’m Black? – Syl Johnson

It’s weird to think that if I’d split the songs a different way we could have had this following straight after after ‘Je t’aime…moi non plus’. From a song banned for its explosion of sexuality to this slow funk lamenting the injustice of racism.

The thing is, at least for me, this isn’t a song, it’s a poem put to music. It’s a powerful poem about civil rights (and there are powerful lines in this) put to a slow funk backing. This music is on a loop, which means that there is little to no variation in the seven and a half minute run of the song.

It sounds harsh to say this, but this song is dull and would have been better with an impassioned reading and no music.

I Want to Take You Higher – Sly & The Family Stone

I have yet to listen to the Sly & The Family Stone album that this song came from, but I am going to venture that this song is a bit of a joyful explosion in an otherwise political album. It’s more than likely that I am going to be proven wrong on this one.

As with the previous song, there is that repetition in the backing music. I mean this is what I have come to expect from funk, that backing that doesn’t change too much between song parts (even modern songs with funk roots, such as Janelle Monae’s ‘Tightrope’ does this). However, there is enough riffing and energy in the music to keep this song moving forward.

The band themselves are an interesting part of music history since it contained a mix of race and gender – something that I don’t think I’ve seen so far on the song list. Did it really take until 1969 before we had such an integrated band? That, in itself, is shocking.

The Court of the Crimson King – King Crimson

Oh hi progressive rock, how good it is to see you again. I signalled in a previous post that we were seeing the morphing of psychedelic rock into progressive rock and I think ‘The Court of the Crimson King’ helps to provide a look at that jumping off point.

This is a song that could not have existed without The Beatles having previously experimented with songs like ‘A Day in the Life’ and ‘Eleanor Rigby’. Similarly you have the trailblazing done by Brian Wilson and Frank Zappa which lead to bands being able to have that much more creative control in the studio. I cannot imagine King Crimson even dreaming of putting together this grandiose piece without those three artists coming before them.

As with a lot of the jazz and classical music that prog rock likes to emulate, ‘The Court of the Crimson King’ has parts/movements. It never stays too long on one section and yet everything is tied together by that Mellotron. Hearing this in proper context, this song is groundbreaking. I need to listen to this album again.

Whole Lotta Love – Led Zeppelin

It’s says a lot about Led Zeppelin II where two songs off the album appear in the 1001 songs list. It speaks for the album’s variation and importance as even the Beatles didn’t manage that feat.

I find it hard to get past the fact that the main riff of ‘Whole Lotta Love’ was the theme music to Top of the Pops… especially since this song is on the list because of that guitar riff and not the stolen lyrics.

As a song on Led Zeppelin II it stands out, but after ‘The Court of the Crimson King’ it starts to pale.

I Wanna Be Your Dog – The Stooges

When I listened to The Stooges’ eponymous album I thought of ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ as being one of the standout tracks. Now that I listen to it again I marvel at my missing the sleigh bells that are constantly being played in the background.

It’s nice to be back to a shorter rock song again and get back to the world of proto-punk. ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ feels so different to the music around it and, when you look at the massive list of cover versions on Wikipedia, really appears to have been a song that grabbed people. That distortion throughout also signposts the start of noise rock/pop… and considering that means the eventual path to Loveless it’s pretty exciting.

Kick Out the Jams – The MC5

The ‘motherfucker’ in the songs opening line might be the first swear word I have heard on the song list. It’s fairly normal to swear in songs now, but wow this instance must have courted controversy at the time. Then again this is from one of the most influential proto-punk albums of all time… so it was always going to be controversial.

One thing that’s interesting to note is that with this and ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ we are moving away from bands just trying to make loud music. We’ve had a lot of that loud music as garage rock, but that was loud for the sake of loudness. These tracks are now moving towards loud and with power. We’re not quite at Panthera level, but it won’t be soon before long.

I Want You Back – The Jackson 5

In the words of my husband, “are you ready for mood whiplash”. A 11-year old Michael Jackson and already he has all that charisma. Knowing what we know now about the goings on with the Jackson 5… well it just makes you wonder.

On the more pleasant side of things, ‘I Want You Back’ is an unusual example of soul crossing over into pop. With later releases by the Jacksons this line isn’t just crossed repeatedly, but is erased entirely.

Also worth noting is that, at least on the recording, none of the instruments were played by the Jacksons. The label would only allow session musicians on the recordings – so the only thing Jackson about this song are the vocals. So this song is pretty much a Michael Jackson song…

The Thrill Is Gone – B.B. King

And here we are, the final song of the 1960s. It has been a long time coming (and means we are nearly a third into this list) and we end with B.B. King whose last song on the list was from 1953. Talk about a long career.

As a song ‘The Thrill Is Gone’ feels like a throwback to some of the earlier blues songs, which has made me feel nostalgic for two years ago. Why? Because that’s when I started with the very first songs of 1960. It’ll probably end up taking me as long to get through the seventies… so I probably should get on that.

It’s a bit of an anti-climax to end on as it’s not too dissimilar to blues songs that went before it. At least that’s how I feel… I probably don’t know enough about the blues to comment.

Progress: 293/1021

1001 Songs – 1952 – 1953

List Item:  Listen to the 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die

They Can’t Take That Away From Me – Fred Astaire (1952)

I always forget that Fred Astaire also sang, when I think of him it is always dancing, usually with Ginger Rogers. It’s a bittersweet song about the ending of a relationship. Astaire never had the strongest of voices, but in his lightness there is also a great deal of grace and sincerity. Of note is the first minute of a three minute song with no singing. It made me think we got the wrong file to be honest since it is a lot of instrumental for a three minute song.

Dust My Broom – Elmore James (1952)

Wow, possibly the first song we have heard that makes such heavy use of an electric (although somewhat tinny) guitar. I don’t know the song, but I really recognise THAT guitar riff. Must be one of those things that has become sampled by later artists or at least become a staple in the electric blues genre. I fact… I think it’s a Loretta Lynn (as produced by Jack White) song that I recognise it from.

Foi Deus – Amalia Rodrigues (1952)

Meanwhile in Portugal, there’s fado singing. A type of folk music that is probably more closely aligned to music I would listen to instead of the last two songs. I only have limited French, so I have no idea what she is singing about. It sounds mournful. Like the sort of music someone would sing on a street corner with a band and (in my head) a lot of roses.

Le gorille – Georges Brassens (1952)

Okay, so I looked in the 1001 Songs book for this one. It’s not everyday you come across a song called ‘The Gorilla’. I then had to find a translation of the song that talks of an authority figure (aka the gorilla) that sodomises a judge thinking that he is an old woman… and it’s pretty graphic. It was obviously controversial and was banned from French radio for 3-4 years. The song is playful in tone and, apparently, reflects Brassens views against the death penalty. The central image, is hard to shake though.

Singin’ in the Rain – Gene Kelly (1952)

I never liked the film Singin’ in the Rain. Just need to get that out of the way. I did, like everyone, love the sequence that featured the titular song. It doesn’t work as well as a song if you know the dance sequence. This recorded version by Gene Kelly leaves some rather obvious dance breaks and sweeping strings which would have been impeccibly timed to his choreography. It’s also an interesting co-incidence that in the same blog post we have a Fred Astaire and a Gene Kelly song – I’m Team Astaire all the way.

Just Walkin’ in the Rain – The Prisonaires (1953)

Well done Mr/Ms. Editor for putting these songs back to back. The song itself is fairly standard, but it has an interesting story. The song list two writers when in fact you had the singer, Johnny Bragg, come up with the lyrics, but since he was illiterate had to have someone else physically write it down. It’s a sensitive song written by someone who had been put into prison with 6 99-year sentences for rape’s that he did not commit. His sentence was commuted, but a harrowing story just the same.

Please Love Me – B.B. King (1953)

We’re back again to a blues song that makes heavy use of an electric guitar. It’s a crossroads between rock and roll and blues with some interesting guitar picking during the vocals.

Crying in the Chapel – The Orioles (1953)

With the exception of some really Christmassy bells floating between the verses (seriously thought it would start on some ‘Jingle Bells’) this song is almost completely acapella. Personal preference here, but God and acapella don’t quite do it for me when mixed together.

Progress: 52/1021