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Fair Summation Of His ABC/MCA Period
on 19 November 2004
As this collection of previously-released material does not go back beyond 1964, and BB King's first single came out in 1949, the claim that this represents his definitive greatest hits is a little contentious.
However, although BB King featured heavily in the R&B charts throughout his highly successful early years, it is a surprising fact that, apart from two appearances at the bottom end of the US Top 100 in 1957, he had not been troubled by the hit parade before 1964.
In 1962 BB King signed with ABC and appeared thereafter on their ABC Paramount, Bluesway and ABC labels. After they were taken over by MCA, his records appeared on that label, and these recordings are all taken from these periods, the most recent being Playin' With My Friends, with Robert Cray, taken from 1993's Blues Summit album. He had released little after that at the time of this compilation's release in 1999, instead concentrating on touring and performing.
Most of the songs chosen here were A-sides of singles, although some of these are in their lengthier album format. Quite a few others are taken from live performances, thus representing some earlier material recorded for other labels as well as showcasing contemporary material in an electric live setting.
BB King achieved his greatest mainstream success during this period and the price we have to pay is that alongside genuinely thrilling and innovative pieces such as The Thrill Is Gone there are a few too many bland-outs and celebrity guest appearances from Gary Moore, Leon Russell, Bobby "Blue" Bland and Dr John, which perhaps are not needed on a "best of" from an artist of the statuure of BB King. The U2 collaboration When Love Comes To Town was a Top Ten single in the UK and so its inclusion was mandatory, and it is a great record.
Now nearing eighty years of age, BB King is the greatest living blues legend, and this is a fair summation of his ABC/MCA years, if such a mighty output can be reduced to just two discs (it can't). If you enjoy this you owe it to yourself to go on to buy at least one companion piece representing his earlier years on the RPM and Kent/Crown labels