B.B. King

Live At The Regal (MCA Records 65) Rating: A
Supposedly the definitive album by arguably the blues performer of the second half of the 20th Century (he's certainly among the best), Live At The Regal has much of the crowd-going-wild feel that made James Brown's Live At The Apollo, 1962 so memorable. Like Brown, B.B.'s backing band is tight as a drum, and the 10 songs presented here are an equal mix of up-tempo boogie shuffles and mid-tempo ballads. I generally prefer the latter efforts, which provide most of the concert's show stopping moments ("How Blue Can You Get" and "Worry Worry," for example), and which best showcase the rough-edged quality of his singing voice. Rolling piano, upbeat horns, and swinging rhythms anchor many of these songs, but B.B.'s precise yet emotional guitar playing is the main attraction along with his powerful voice, which is a force of nature. He's not quite the singer that Brown is; his range is limited and his voice lacks Brown's distinctive trademarks, but B.B. nevertheless is in complete command of the crowd. Sure, some of the sexist banter/lyrics are regrettable, giving parts of this performance a past due quality, but Live At The Regal is still a terrific document of why many blues connoisseurs consider B.B. King to be the king of modern day blues.

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