Music

B.B. King: The Ultimate Collection

Adam Williams

Regal in name and stature, the King of the Blues is paid tribute with the latest thumbnail sketch of his historic career.


B.b. King

The Ultimate Collection

Label: Geffen
US Release Date: 2005-03-15
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon affiliate
Amazon
iTunes

What else can be said about the greatest bluesman of the last half century? That he continues to build upon a brilliant legacy as he enters his eightieth year? That his technical expertise and charisma are rivaled only by his generosity and charm? Legions of subjects have been entertained by nearly 60 years' worth of concerts and albums, yet there are not enough accolades to bestow upon the unchallenged King of the Blues. The former Riley King has reached iconic status as a global figure, on par with Muhammad Ali and Elvis, a remarkable achievement in its own right. Despite having accomplished so much (and solidified his place in the pantheon of legendary musicians) King chooses not to rest on his laurels, continuing to enrapture fans by touring and recording alongside his faithful Lucille. For a man with such an impressive resume of stage and studio work to his credit, it seems somewhat inappropriate to honor him with a greatest hits collection -- as if such an album could do anything more than approximate the magnitude of King's career.

Since record companies are preoccupied with marketing strategies (as opposed to issuing quality product), packaging and presentation are the primary components for end sales. Thus labeling the single disc compilation B.B. King - The Ultimate Collection is a self serving corporate ploy that falls somewhere between pretentious and laughable -- does anyone believe that King's expansive catalogue can be distilled down to 21 tracks and honestly (or accurately) be deemed an "ultimate collection"?

Marketing issues aside, it is King's fret board artistry that matters most, and the folks at Geffen have put together an attractive hodge podge of songs spanning each decade of King's storied musical existence. From his humble beginnings as radio jingler "The Pepticon Boy", to his high profile collaborations with U2 and Eric Clapton, King has cornered the market on impassioned blues performances. The included tracks lend an interesting perspective in terms of a sequential compare and contrast: King's 1951 Billboard #1 hit "Three O'Clock Blues" opens the disc, followed by 10 songs from the '50s and '60s (including live versions of "Every Day I Have the Blues" and "Sweet Little Angel" recorded at Chicago's Regal Theater in 1964).

The six songs from the '70s offer an interesting mix of gritty blues and tenderness, punctuated by the exquisite "Ain't Nobody Home" (recalling Isaac Hayes' funk infused soundtrack from the original 1971 film Shaft) and "I Like to Live the Love" with its shades of vintage Sly Stone. King's singing and playing on these tracks are testament to the effortlessness of his transition between varying blues styles, and a reminder of his creative brilliance.

With only two songs from the '80s and one each from the '90s and '00s, the disc is heavily weighted toward King's earlier work, although some semblance of balance is achieved with the two significant cross-over hits "When Love Comes To Town" and "Ten Long Years" (from 1987 and 2000).

While King aficionados can debate their respective favorites on this collection (as well as notable exclusions), the disc includes a satisfactory number of popular songs and lesser known gems to make it worthwhile. Consider The Ultimate Collection more a primer than a definitive statement, and enjoy being in the King's court for roughly 79 minutes of blues excellence.

6

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image