B.B. King

The Ultimate Collection

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In theory, the idea behind Geffen's 2005 compilation The Ultimate Collection seems sound: gather together 21 iconic tracks from the entirety of B.B. King's long career and present them on one handy disc. While there have been plenty of King comps throughout the years -- some great, some merely passable, but often all very good -- there has never been one that tries to distill it all onto one disc. For good reason: it's hard to do. The Ultimate Collection does about as well as any multi-decade, cross-label comp could, hitting the most obvious high points -- "Three O'Clock Blues," "You Upset Me Baby," "How Blue Can You Get?," live versions of "Every Day I Have the Blues" and "Sweet Little Angel" from the peerless Live at the Regal, the smooth early-'70s hits "The Thrill Is Gone" and "Ain't Nobody Home" -- and extending all the way till 1998. While there's no hiding the fact that there is a sharp drop-off in classic material after 1972, most of the disc (a full 14 songs) is devoted to the '50s through '70s, and it does paint a portrait of the arc of his career. So, for those listeners who want a basic selection of high points from B.B., this is a good choice, but for those neophytes who want to truly experience B.B.'s greatness, turn to Live at the Regal or a collection of early singles -- they might not cover as much territory, but they explain more about his legend than this well-intentioned set.

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