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4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
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on 15 August 2011
I would love to give this 5 stars (for having possibly the greatest album cover ever, for one thing); but I just can't. Why? Well, this album has 8 tracks. Take away this first one, which is a prison official making a speech, and the second, which is not much more than a brief musical intro, and the 4th, which is mainly BB rapping with the audience, and the 5th, which is a medley with a fair bit more talking, and you basically have 4 solid tracks. They're great performances - but it's not what I'd call a coherent album, and I find myself wanting to edit some of it out.

The whole things weighs in about 37 minutes, including all the intros and chat. About 20 minutes of uninterrupted music.

Now, some people will tell you that's all a part of BB's show - and if this CD were an hour long, I'd agree. As it is, it's really enjoyable, but you should know what you're getting.
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on 7 January 2005
BB plays an unlikely concert to prisoners at Cook County Jail. A captive audience in no doubt and B B sounds a little nervous at first - probably thinking of what might happen if they don't like him. Recorded some time ago - I guess early 70's and he is probably at his best. After the normal set of his favouties and introductions - he launches into into the best he has ever sounded on live record. He cooks at the county jail and his guitar gains a power normally heard from his namesake Freddie King. The highest point has to be 'The Thrill Has Gone' - not stricly a 12 bar blues but it has to be one of modern music's must hear tracks, much better than the studio version. He adds a 'chucka chucka' beat building up to a explosive finish. If you buy only one BB King CD - this is the one. I've had LP's, tapes and now my last CD is scratched - so here I am again buying it again.
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"Live in Cook County Jail," by the legendary American blues master B.B. King, was indeed recorded live on September 10, 1970, before the 2117 prisoners then held in that formerly-troubled facility. Cook County is, of course, Chicago: seems like King, like most other blues masters coming out of Mississippi, the Indianola area, in the river's delta, to be precise, traveled up river. To Memphis, St. Louis, Chicago. King, a blues songwriter/vocalist and guitarist, was quite likely the greatest bluesman of his generation: he was/is certainly the most influential. Rolling Stone magazine ranked him at No. 6 on its list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time; he was ranked No. 17 in Gibson's Top 50 Guitarists of All Time. According to Edward M. Komara, King "introduced a sophisticated style of soloing based on fluid string bending and shimmering vibrato that would influence virtually every electric blues guitarist that followed."

Over the years, King developed one of the world's most individual guitar sounds: he mixed traditional blues, jazz, swing, mainstream pop and jump into his vocabulary, while he borrowed from Blind Lemon Jefferson, T-Bone Walker and others. He integrated his precise, complex vocal-like string bends and his left hand vibrato: both techniques have become important tools in any rock guitarist's vocabulary. His economy and phrasing have been models for thousands of players, from Jimi Hendrix to Eric Clapton and George Harrison to Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page and Duane Allman. The performer won a Grammy Award for a tune called "The Thrill Is Gone;" his version became a hit on both the pop and R&B charts, which was rare during that time for an R&B artist. It also gained the number 183 spot in Rolling Stone magazine's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

King was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1980 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. He is known for performing tirelessly throughout his musical career; having begun his touring on the segregated all-black Chitlin Circuit, he continued to appear at 250-300 concerts per year until his seventies. In 1956 it was noted that he had appeared at 342 shows; at the age of 87 King still appears at 100 shows a year. However, he is probably best known today for the nationwide American string of blues clubs that bear his name, and his work as an American television pitchman for a diabetes product.

"Live at Cook County Jail" is one of the albums that I like so much I first bought it on vinyl. On it he gives a whooping, appreciative audience "Every Day I Have the Blues," "How Blue Can You Get," "Worry Worry, Worry," and his signature tune "The Thrill is Gone." Also "Sweet Sixteen" and "Please Accept my Love," both of which he had a hand in writing. He is backed by John Browning on trumpet, Louis Hubert on tenor saxophone, Booker Walker on alto sax, Ron Levy on piano, Wilbert Freeman on bass, and Sonny Freeman on drums. The album was produced by Bill Szymczyk. You can hear the guitarist doing a fine call and response with his joyous audience. Also those famous lines from "How Blue Can You Get:""I bought you a new Mustang; you said you wanted a Cadillac. I bought you a steak dinner; you said thanks for the snack. I bought you a new penthouse; you said thanks for the shack. I gave you seven children, and now you want to give them back."

In my not that glamorous days way back when as a rock chick, I did get to hang with King's entourage a bit, enough to know that, on top of the performer's technical mastery of his art, the wit and humor displayed on this record are genuinely his. Love it, just love it.
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on 24 March 2012
Followers of any particular artist or genre, will often have several albums of a particular Artist. I am no exception when it comes to the blues and BB King. This is no doubt one of his best performances. Think about it, it had to be ........... it must have been do or die facing an audience made up of prisoners.
BB King plays and sings like I have never heard before. Excellent.
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on 1 August 2016
This is definately a great cd. BB's guitar and vocals come shining through on every track.Just wish it was a lot longer. Contains possibly his best ever version of the Thrill is Gone.
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on 19 February 2008
Read any article or book about blues music, and mention will quickly be made to what's considered the finest live blues album around - namely, BB King's "Live At The Regal". I'd say it's a fair comment, but the impact of that album is that I think it now slightly overshadows this one; and if you've not heard "Live in Cook County Jail" before then I recommend you do - as it's a fine record.

You've only got to look at Johnny Cash to know how live albums recorded in prisons can somehow bring out the best in a musician, and with BB it's no different. Perhaps it's the thought of playing to a group of prisoners, but he pulls out all the stops on this album. The guitar playing is exemplary of course (his licks here have a real sting in the tail) but it's BB King acting as his own compere that really shines.

Vocally he's on fine form, but there's a lot of humour on this record that I'd not heard before. He's skits during "Worry Worry" are worth the cost of the album alone - and the charm in which he chats to the audience about songs he's selected. Which is to say nothing of the wonderfully funky version of "The Thrill Is Gone" (which, without the string section sounds brilliant) or the blistering "Every Day I Have The Blues", which opens his set.

If I would be allowed one complaint, it's that it's perhaps not long enough!

This is a wonderfully raw and impassioned BB performance - so you can easily buy with confidence.
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on 8 March 2015
Love B.B.? Then you need this album...somehow the Chicago prison and its inhabitants add to the 'blue' part of the blues, and even though B does virtually all his famed numbers, there is a certain bittersweet nature to them, which is all part of the venue....I rarely buy 'live' recordings, but from an audio standpoint, this one is worth it....
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on 23 March 2015
A HARD Gig...A Troubled Jail...The Prison Staff Get Heckled And Booed...B.B. Straps it on...And Cuts Loose...With Axe And That Sublime Voice...'SOMEDAY BAYEEEEEBY...SOMEDAY BAYYYEEBYYY...When The Blind Man Calls Your Name. TROUBLE OVER, Everybody gets CURED.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 16 January 2011
Well I'm interested and enlightened by the other reviews. But personally I regard this as far superior to 'Live at the Regal', which admittedly I've only heard once. B B is a doll on the guitar but on this record he spits. Also for sheer passion this record is miles over the top compared to his other great records. What a sound.
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on 26 March 2014
This album is fantastic, with most of the music originating from 'the early years'. It is bluesy, moody, soulful and original, including a superb display of 'Lucille'. Being a live recording and perhaps because of the prison location BB King is at his very best as he reaches out to the audience, identifying with and commiserating the loss of freedom, love and emotional wellbeing of the prisoners.
Probably my best purchase for ages.
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