B.B. King

L.A. Midnight

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This release comes straight from B.B. King's commercial peak (that is, prior to the unprecedented Top Ten success of Riding with the King in 2000), and it is a perplexing LP where greatness and aimlessness lie side by side. Using a freely eclectic mix of sidemen from Los Angeles, King strides to some sterling performances in certain tracks. The King is at his sly peak on "I Got Some Help I Don't Need," uproariously humorous and hurt at the same time, with crazy wah-wah filigrees laced within, and "Can't You Hear Me Talking to You" is also tight and right. One of his best recordings of "Sweet Sixteen" leads off side two, where the lyric is updated to suit the times ("I just got back from Vietnam, baby/And you know I'm a long, long way from New Orleans") and band, singer and his guitar rise to an emotional crescendo down the stretch. Yet "(I Believe) I've Been Blue Too Long" falters on a clumsy riff and can't get going, and the rest of the album is frittered away with directionless blues jamming. Guitarists Jesse Ed Davis and Joe Walsh join King on the two longest jams ("Midnight," "Lucille's Granny") yet they don't really mesh that well. Get this one second-hand for the outstanding disciplined stuff and don't sweat the rest; as per the nature of the beast, some jams don't yield pay dirt.

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