Wednesday, 8 June 2016

"Ladies & Gentlemen…Mr. B.B. King" by B.B. KING (2012 Universal 4CD and 10CD Box Set Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"…Everyday I Have The Blues..." 

Considering his iconic status - a properly decent box set chronicling Mississippi's B.B. King has been a long time coming (his Blues career has now reached the staggering longevity of 66 years). But at least you can say that Universal have finally done the great man proud (especially on the mammoth 10-disc set). Here are Woke Up This Morning details...

Released September 2012 - "Ladies & Gentlemen...Mr. B.B. King" by B. B. KING comes in 2 forms - a 4CD Box Set and a 10CD version - and to confuse matters both are rather lazily given the same title. The 10-disc Box Set is catalogue number Universal 0600753384992 (Barcode 600753384992) - while this review is for the 4CD version on Universal 0600753390863 (Barcode 600753390863) and that 4-disc set breaks down as follows:

Disc 1 (1949-1964) - 77:67 minutes:
1. Miss Martha King (1949 USA 78" on Bullet 309, A)
2. When You Baby Packs Up And Goes (1949 USA 78" on Bullet 309, B-side to "Miss Martha King")
3. B.B. Boogie (1950 USA 78" on RPM 304, A)
4. She's Dynamite (1951 USA 78" on RPM 323, A)
5. Three O'Clock Blues (1951, USA 7" single on RPM 349, A)
6. Woke Up This Morning (1953, RPM 380, A)
7. Blind Love (1953, RPM 395, A)
8 When My Heart Beats Like A Hammer (1954, RPM 412, A)
9. You Upset Me Baby (1954, RPM 416, A)
10. Ten Long Years (1955, RPM 437, A)
11. Bad Luck (1956, RPM 468, A)
12. Troubles, Troubles, Troubles (1957, RPM 492, A)
13. Early In The Morning (1957, RPM 492, A)
14. Everyday I Have The Blues (1959, Kent 327, A)
15. (I've) Got A Right To Love My Baby (1960, Kent 333, A)
16. It's My Own Fault (1960, Kent 333, B-side to "(I've) Got A Right To Love My Baby")
17. Walking Dr. Bill (1960, Kent 350, A)
18. Rock Me Baby (1964, Kent 393, A)
19. You Ask Me (1962, ABC-Paramount 10316, A - and the US LP "Mr. Blues" on ABC-Paramount ABC-456)
20. Blues At Midnight (1962, ABC-Paramount 10334, A - and the US LP "Mr. Blues" on ABC-Paramount ABC-456)
21. Sneakin' Around (1963, ABC-Paramount 10361, A - and the US LP "Mr. Blues" on ABC-Paramount ABC-456)
22. How Blue Can You Get? (1964, ABC-Paramount 10527, A)
23. I Wonder Why - PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED September 1963 Recording
24. Please Accept My Love (1964, ABC-Paramount 10527, B-side of "How Blue Can You Get?")
25. Help The Poor (1964, ABC-Paramount 10552, A)
26. Never Trust A Woman (1964, ABC-Paramount 10599, A)

Disc 2 (1964-1969) - 76:53 minutes:
1. Everyday I Have The Blues (Live)
2. Sweet Little Angel (Live)
3. Please Love Me (Live) - Tracks 1 to 3 from the 1965 USA LP "Live At The Regal" on ABC-Paramount ABC-509
4. All Over Again (1965, ABC-Paramount 10724, A - also on the 1968 US LP "His Best/The Electric B.B. King" on Bluesway BLS 6022)
5. Tired On Your Jive (1965, ABC-Paramount 10675, A - also on the 1968 US LP "His Best/The Electric B.B. King" on Bluesway BLS 6022)
6. Cherry Red (from the 1966 US LP "Confessin' The Blues" on ABC-Paramount ABC-528)
7. Don't Answer The Door, Parts 1&2 (1966, ABC 10856, A - also on the 1968 US LP "His Best/The Electric B.B. King" on Bluesway BLS 6022)
8. Night Life (1966, ABC 10889, A)
9. Gambler's Blues (Live) (from the 1967 US LP "Blues Is King" on Bluesway BLS 6001)
10. Sweet Sixteen, Parts 1&2 (1967, Bluesway 61012, A&B-sides)
11. Worried Dream (1967, Bluesway 61007, A)
12. Paying The Cost To Be The Boss (1968, Bluesway 61015, A - also on the US LP "Blues On Top Of Blues" on Bluesway BLS 6011)
13. Watch Yourself
14. Lucille - tracks 13 and 14 are both from the 1968 US LP "Lucille" on Bluesway BLS 6016)
15. Why I Sing The Blues (1969, Bluesway 61024, A - also on the 1969 US LP "Live And Well" on Bluesway BLS 6031)
16. Confessin' The Blues (1969, Bluesway 61035, B-side of "So Excited" - also on the 1969 US LP "Completely Well" on Bluesway BLS 6037)
17. The Thrill Is Gone (1969, Bluesway 61032, A - also on the 1969 US LP "Completely Well" on Bluesway BLS 6037)

Disc 3 (1970-1983) - 73:57 minutes:
1. Nobody Loves Me But My Mother (1970, ABC 11290, A - also on the LP "Indianola Mississippi Seeds" on ABC Records ABC-713)
2. Chains And Things (1970, ABC 11280, A - also on the LP "Indianola Mississippi Seeds" on ABC Records ABC-713)
3. Hummingbird (1970, ABC 11268, A - also on the LP "Indianola Mississippi Seeds" on ABC Records ABC-713)
4. Worry, Worry (Live) (from the 1971 LP "Live At Cook County Jail" on ABC Records ABC 723)
5. Ghetto Woman (1971, ABC 11310, A - also on the 1971 LP "In London" on ABC Records ABC-730)
6. Ain't Nobody Home (1971, ABC 11316, A - also on the 1971 LP "In London" on ABC Records ABC-730)
7. Guess Who (1972, ABC 11330, A - also on the 1972 LP "Guess Who" on ABC Records ABC 759)
8. I Like To Live The Love (1973, ABC 11406, A - also on the 1973 LP "To Know You Is To Love You" on ABC Records ABCX-794)
9. Lucille Talks Back
10. Don't Make Me Pay For His Mistakes - tracks 9 and 10 from the 1975 LP "Lucille Talks Back" on ABC Records ABCD 898
11. Let The Good Times Roll (Live) (1976, ABC-Impulse 31006, A - also on the 1976 2LP Bobby Bland and B.B. King set "Together Again...Live" on ABC Records ASD 9317)
12. Mother Fuyer (from the 1977 LP "King Size" on ABC Records AB 977)
13. When It All Comes Down (I'll Still Be Around) (from the 1978 LP "Midnight Believer" on ABC Records AA 1061)
14. Better Not Look Down (1979, MCA 41062, A - also on the 1979 LP "Take It Home" on MCA Records MCA 3151)
15. There Must Be A Better World Somewhere (1981, MCA 51101, A - also on the 1981 LP "There Must Be A Better World Somewhere" on MCA Records MCA 5162)
16. Nightlife/Please Send Me Someone To Love (from the 1982 LP "Love Me Tender" on MCA Records MCA 5307)
17. Make Love To Me (from the 1983 LP "Blues `N' Jazz" on MCA Records MCA 27119)

Disc 4 (1984-2008) - 79:20 minutes:
1. Into The Night (1985, MCA 52530, A - also on the 1985 LP "Six Silver Strings" on MCA Records MCA 5616)
2. When Love Comes To Town [credited as U2 with B.B. KING] (1988, Island 7-99225, A - also on the U2 1988 double-album "Rattle And Hum" on Island 91003)
3. Take Off Your Shoes (from the 1989 LP "King Of The Blues: 1989" on MCA Records MCAD 42183)
4. I'm Moving On
5. There Is Always One More Time - tracks 4 and 5 from 1991 album "There Is Always One More Time" on MCA Records MCAD 10295)
6. Monday Morning Blues (Blues For Mr. G) (from the 1991 album "Garfield: Am I Cool Or What?" on GRP Records GRD 9641)
7. Playin' With My Friends [with ROBERT CRAY] (from the 1993 album "Blues Summit" on MCA Records MCA 10710)
8. Confessin' The Blues (from the 1997 album "Deuces Wild" on MCA Records MCA 11711)
9. Blues Man
10. I'll Survive - tracks 9 and 10 from the 1998 album "Blues On The Bayou" on MCA Records MCA 11879)
11. Caldonia
12. Ain't That Just Like A Woman - tracks 11 and 12 from the 1999 album "Let The Good Times Roll: The Music Of Louis Jordan" on MCA Records 088 112 042)
13. Monday Woman (from the 1999 album "Makin' Love Is Good For You" on MCA Records 088 112 241)
14. Ten Long Years [ERIC CLAPTON with B.B. KING] (from the 2000 album "Riding With The King" on Reprise 9 47612-2)
15. Early In The Morning [with VAN MORRISON] (from the 2005 album "80" on Geffen B0005263-02)
16. Key To The Highway (Live) (from the 2006 album "Live" on Geffen B0009770-02)
17. See That Grave Is Kept Clean (from the 2008 album "One Kind Favor" on Geffen B0011791-02)

The 8 x 10" shaped Black Box Set cuts a classy dash as does the 64-page Hardback Book on the inside. ASHLEY KAHN (Music Journalist and author of a book on "Kind Of Blue" by Miles Davis) provides us with an affectionate and informative introduction to the Blues Legend on Pages 1 to 13 while Pages 14 to 40 are taken up with a "B.B. King Recording Career" assessment by DICK SHURMAN (Grammy-Winning Producer and Blues Historian). The text is peppered throughout with beautifully rendered black and white and colour photos from varying stages in his life, concert tickets, American concert posters, there's a shot of an enamoured Bono of U2 on stage with our Hero and there's even a repro photo of that rare 78" on Bullet from 1949. Pages 42 through to the end give a very detailed track-by-track breakdown - musicians, writers, times, vinyl and CD credits etc. Each of the CDs is housed in a period photo card sleeve with all four sitting in a centre hollow.

The entire set has been compiled by two experienced names in quality reissues - BILL LEVENSON and ANDY McKAIE. The audio rocks too. ELIOT KISSILEFF carried out the tape transfers while SETH FOSTER did the mastering - and the remasters as you can imagine are superb throughout (Disc 4 features beautifully recorded tracks anyway). The first few sides are dubbed from 78" so have crackle - but much of the RPM, Kent and ABC-Paramount tapes are clearly in great shape.

The historic 78"s cease crackling by the time the mournful "Three O'Clock Blues" kicks in on Track 5, Disc 1. "Woke Up This Morning" gives us some excellent bopping R'n'B - followed by two more RPM nuggets "Blind Love" and the mooching "When My Heart Beat Like A Hammer". Up next is surely one of the fan's faves - the witty "You Upset My Baby" with its "twenty eight in the waist...forty-four in the hips..." lyrics - and it still sounds cool a full sixty years after the event. By the time you get the Sixties ABC-Paramount material like "Blues At Midnight" and "Sneakin' Around" - the Production values go through the roof - these tracks sounding just amazing even if his guitar style is a tad drowned out by huge amounts of brass-band backing.

Disc 2 opens with a trio from the legendary "Live At The Regal Theatre" set which Mobile Fidelity once give the Gold CD treatment too ("Sweet Little Angel" sounds particularly awesome as do the screams of the little girls eager to get at B.B. when he saucily sings about "spreading her wings..."). One of the great things about Box sets like this is the discoveries - and one of them is the Stereo take of "All Over Again" - a forgotten mid-tempo piece about "letters in the morning" and "being better off dead" - the audio quality on this track alone is fabulous (lovely guitar licks too). He goes deep Blues on his cover of Joe Turner's "Cherry Red" and Britain's Fleetwood Mac must surely have had the slow shuffle-cymbals-and-echoed-guitar Blues of "Don't Answer The Door Parts 1 & 2" on repeat play in some London bedsit.

Disc 3 starts with the Seventies and it's easy to hear why three tracks appear from the wickedly good "Indianola Mississippi Seeds" LP (on Probe Records in the UK). One of my all time craves is "Chains And Things" - picked off the album as a 7" single in the UK on Probe PRO 516 in February 1971 (with "King's Special" on the B-side).  The A is a slinky almost Steely Dan "Do It Again" vibe which features no less than Carole King on Piano - it's brilliant. The other choice is "Hummingbird" written by Leon Russell and featuring its creator on Piano with Joe Walsh on Rhythm Guitar (James Gang, Eagles). Other interesting cuts include the Instrumental "Lucille Talks Back" and his stab at Funk in "Mother Fuyer". The Soulful strings of "Ghetto Woman" and brassy swagger of Jerry Ragovoy's "Ain't Nobody Home" come from the "In London" album which featured a huge array of talent - Gary Wright of Spooky Tooth on Keyboards, Dr. John on Piano, Bobby Keys (of The Rolling Stones) on saxophone with Klaus Voorman on bass (of "Revolver" fame") and Ringo Starr (of some Liverpool band) on Drums. "When It All Comes Down (I'll Still Be Around)" features Joe sample of The Crusaders with "Make Love To Me" ending Disc 3 in a shuffling Jazz/R'n'B fashion (sensational Production and the band cooking).

What I wasn't expecting was the quality of Disc 4 - the later stuff. Excluding a terrible Eighties production on "Into The Night" (opening track) - from "When Love Comes To Town" onwards its good all the way with an array of famous names contributing excellence - Robert Cray, Marty Stewart, Dr. John, Arthur Adam, Joe Sample, Eric Clapton, Van Morrison and of course Ireland's U2. "Confessin' The Blues" is particularly chunky (Marty Stewart on Guitar and Vocals with Bill Payne of Little Feat on Keyboards) while Van Morrison puts in a spirited performance on the Traditional "Early In The Morning". Joe Sample of The Crusaders (sadly passed away recently) contributed "I'm Moving On" to that album while Arthur Adam plays guitar on the cut. One of the best true Blues tunes on the whole box is "There Is Always One More Time" - beautifully produced by Stewart Levine. Dr. John plays piano on the two Louis Jordan cover versions and turns up again on the Blind Lemon Jefferson/Furry Lewis CD finisher "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean". It's an impressive way to end the Box - still doing it after all these years and endless decades...

Some consider him a lightweight in terms of playing technique - some feel his live stuff far outweighs the recorded - but whatever you look at B.B. King - this is a lovingly crafted Box Set that deserves several listens in order to appreciate the sheer breath of his recording career.

Aged 89 in 2015 - B.B. King is still with us - still doing it - still playing the Blues. And that itself is a testament to his incredible musical career.

"...I'll survive..." - he sang all those years ago. And his music has...

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

INDEX - Artists, Albums, Record Labels, CD Remaster Engineers, Liner Notes Authors, Links etc