Friday, December 21, 2007

B.B. King – The RPM Hits 1951-1957 (Ace, 1999)

Early on in his career, the great bluesman B.B. King established a pattern of music that would serve him well for over fifty years. Fronting a powerful little big band with his own potent guitar and vocals, combined with memorable songs and performances, he established himself as "King of the Blues" by relentless touring and recording. This disc presents the best of King's earliest recordings, where he is at his leanest and most mighty, belting out the original versions of songs he would continue to revisit throughout his career, like the riff laden “You Upset Me Baby” and the violet blues “Three O'Clock in the Morning.” B.B.'s great and resonant voice comes through on the classic recordings of “Every Day I Have the Blues” and the amazingly emotional “Sweet Little Angel.” Some of the more pop and ballad oriented material is a little less successful, but its inclusion shows the range of material that King was recording during this period. The liner notes are extensive and well written, scouring the blues landscape for information about King and his singles during this period. There is some truly wonderful and historic music here, and anyone looking for a one disc summation of B.B. King's early recordings would do well to track down a copy.


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