Top positive review
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Joy Ride in Blue.
on 10 May 2003
B.B. and Eric. Lucille and ... no, not Blacky, who was retired in 1985, but at least Blacky's little brother(s). Two guitar gods , with a combined 80 years of recording experience. Immesurable amounts of talent, from the two "big guys" down to every single one of the other participants in this project. And - dare one say it, given that this is supposed to be a blues album? - loads of fun, on top of all that!
Let's get things straight, musically this is a long way from Cook County Jail and from either man's Cradle, not to mention Layla and other assorted painful love affairs. There is no sense here of "rather [wanting to be] dead than to be here so alone and blue" (B.B. King, "Worry Worry"), of the loneliness at the chiming of the midnight hour (B.B. King, "Blues at Midnight"), or of crawling on the floor like the worst loser in the world begging her to take you back (Eric Clapton, "Bell Bottom Blues"). Sure, the album includes B.B. King's "Ten Long Years," "Three O'Clock Blues" and "When My Heart Beats Like a Hammer" and Maceo Merriweather's "Worried Life Blues" - and yes, these songs do strike a number of blue notes, in their lyrics as well as in King's growling vocals and their mournful, reflective guitar solos. But overall, a relaxed and at times even upbeat feeling dominates this release; and you can hear how much fun every musician involved in the project had in recording it. And further proof is provided by the photos of a broadly smiling Eric Clapton and B.B. King featured on the CD's front cover and in its slim booklet.P>The album opens with John Hiatt's "Riding With the King," the CD's title track and obvious motto, whose lyrics ("I stepped out of Mississippi when I was ten years old, with a suit cut sharp as a razor and a heart made of gold; I had a guitar hanging just about waist high, and I'm gonna play this thing until the day I die") could have been written specifically with Mississippi-born B.B. King in mind. The song's upbeat mood is resumed most strongly in William Broonzy and Charles Seger's "Key to the Highway" which, beginning with Eric Clapton/Derek and the Domino's "Layla" album all the way to this one, seems to turn into a different kind of jam session with whomever Clapton chooses to record it; as well as in Hayes/Porter's "Hold On I'm Coming" and the closing track, Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen's classic "Come Rain and Come Shine." In the latter, Eric Clapton and B.B. King thus give a classy blues twist to a song which by now has probably been recorded by virtually every artist of note and nevertheless sounds different every single time
The blending of classics like the aforementioned ones with more recent songs like Doyle Bramhall II's "Marry You" and "I Wanna Be" (both vastly improved in the treatment they receive here) further adds to the album's variety; and the gang really gets going with King's "Days of Old," which has rarely ever sounded like so much fun. As befits any good blue album and particularly one by artists as distinguished as these, the vast majority of what you hear is recorded live, with little to no overdub at all. Joe Sample's fluid piano notes accentuate and frame Clapton and King's vocals and guitar solos in just the right manner on more than one track, and while the CD does also feature some drum programming (by Paul Waller), this is much less obvious than on the decidedly less bluesy "Reptile."
In the album's liner notes, Eric Clapton and B.B. King credit each other as "a true genius" (King about Clapton) and "my hero" (Clapton about King), and express that recording an album together has been a long-standing dream of both of them. The product of that cooperation is one infectuous CD; and after their long and distinguished careers, it is great to see (and hear) how much fun they can still have doing what they do best.