CD Appreciation – Live at the Regal by BB King
Live at the Regal is one of those rare CD’s which is well recorded, finds the performers on very good form, and an appreciative and vocal audience.
BB King’s shows are as much about entertainment as they are about the music, and the monologues between songs finds King in good form, and the musicianship is surprisingly well recorded for a concert that took place on November 21st 1964, when the world was experiencing Beatlemania and the fall out of the 1950’s, and the baby boomers were discovering blues for the first time.The call and answer guitar and vocal interplay that BB King was adept at had an influence over a number of musicians from the following generation, and unlike Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix who were experimenting with volume and thunderously loud guitar riffs, King’s guitar led from the front, but he never felt the need to establish his authority with loud or grandstanding playing.
The band is fully integrated, with the contributions of drummer Sonny Freeman, Pianist Duke Jethro and Bass Player Leo Lauche supporting BB King’s flights as a vocalist and guitarist, and the powerful interjections of the full time brass section of trumpeter Kenneth Sands and saxophonists Johnny Board and Bobby Forte.
The 10 tracks that are contained on the album give an over-view of King’s repertoire at the time, ranging from the upbeat swing jazz of ‘Everyday I have the Blues’ to his own blues classic ‘Sweet Little Angel’.
King has a credit in much of the music on the album, with readings of ‘Please Love me’ with its Elmore James sound a like introduction ‘You Upset me Baby’ and ‘You done lost your good thing now’ giving the ensemble good music to play.
John Lee Hooker’s ‘It’s my own fault’ is a slow blues, which gives full rein to BB King’s vocal prowess, in his armoury, a more important influence than his laidback guitar style which taught many later players the importance of economy, and the power of the cliché of less being more.
Jazz overtones interweave with the blues, giving the music a more sophisticated polish and shine, and the supporting players more of a challenging framework in which to play. Many of the tracks are segued from one to another, with all members able to follow shifts in key changes and tempo. The guitar solo that starts of ‘How Blues can you get’ is a text example of pure electric blues playing, with each note counting to create more than a series of notes. Here, the gaps that are left are just as important.
This album has proven to be influential, and shows one of the most important post-war blues musicians playing at his best in his natural habitat, whilst the audience roars their approval with each twist of string, and each artfully applied vocal tic and vibrato.
Whilst this electric blues, the importance of King’s predecessors can be heard, from the field-work holler of his voice, to the guitar style that borrows heavily from such players as T.Bone Walker and Charlie Christian, in applying more than the pentatonic scale to a blues solo.
Other live blues albums have come along, including some others from King himself, but the warmth of the performance, the quality of the performance of the band, and its leader, and the audience reaction means that this disc still has a lot to offer to anyone who cares to listen.