B.B. King

Original Greatest Hits

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As part of the celebration of B.B. King's 80th birthday Virgin released the double-disc set Original Greatest Hits in September of 2005 -- the week B.B. turned 80. Since there have been so many comps of King's long career, all bearing titles similar to Original Greatest Hits, it's easy to assume that this collection is yet another recycling of the familiar B.B. standards from the late '60s and '70s, but that's not the case at all. Instead, this 40-track collection is one of the first American reissues to offer a comprehensive survey of his recordings for RPM and Kent in the '50s and early '60s (both sides of his debut 45 for Bullet, "Miss Martha King"/"When Your Baby Packs Up and Goes," are added to the end of the collection for good measure). While the material has been reissued extensively overseas, most notably on the U.K. label Ace, which has offered an exhaustive overview of the majority of his RPM and Kent sides, there has never been a good U.S. comp of this material until this deceptively plain-titled Original Greatest Hits. Over the course of two discs, the original single versions of such B.B. standards as "3 O'Clock Blues," "Every Day I Have the Blues," "You Upset Me, Baby," "Did You Ever Love a Woman," "Sweet Little Angel," "Sweet Sixteen," "My Own Fault," and "Downhearted (aka How Blue Can You Get?)" are presented, along with the cream of the crop of the rest of his early recordings. While there are certainly some great, even important, songs that didn't make the cut, there has never been an overview of this era that has been so succinct yet comprehensive (and it's also well annotated too, with good liner notes by Colin Escott). Serious collectors should invest either in Ace's excellent 2003 box King of the Blues or their ongoing LP reissue series, but all other fans should turn here to hear the best of B.B.'s earliest and arguably best work.

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