B.B. King

Confessin' the Blues

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This is the third ABC Paramount platter from B.B. King, following on the heels of the genre-defining Live at the Regal (1964). The artist's vocal delivery and signature fretwork are uniformly strong, although at times the material feels as if it isn't completely suited to the artist. While not an overt "concept" album, Confessin' the Blues (1965) consists of a dozen selections with King supported by his concurrent road band: Duke Jethro (piano), Leo Lauchie (bass), and Sonny Freeman (drums). If, as has been suggested, the idea was to groom King into being a Ray Charles protégé, these initial attempts provide varying degrees of success. During the opener -- an update of the standard "See See Rider" -- King is constricted by the compact and rigid arrangement. Conversely, "Do You Call That a Buddy" allows more of his unique intimacy to seep into the grooves. The robust horn section occasionally overpowers or -- perhaps more accurately -- interferes with what are otherwise textbook examples of King's unquestionable mastery of the assembled vintage rhythm & blues entries. One of the more glaring occurrences can be heard on the overhaul of Jay McShann's memorable title track "Confessin' the Blues." Listeners are drawn into King's understated narrative, only to then be blasted by the brass' bright and brash contributions. Thankfully, such instances are the exception and not the rule as demonstrated on the definitive renditions of "I'm Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town," "How Long, How Long Blues," and the absolutely essential interpretations of Big Joe Turner's "Cherry Red" and "Wee Baby Blues." Confessin' the Blues wraps up with an incongruous, but nonetheless spectacularly stylish take of Percy Mayfield's "Please Send Me Someone to Love." King takes hold of a big band -- presumably recorded at an all-together different session -- with the command and authority that would be his trademark for decades to come. In that context, the tune is prophetic, as his predilection for big-band blues has certainly served King well during the ensuing decades.

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