B.B. King And His Orchestra Live
By James Calemine
Originally recorded in 1983 at the international MIDEM industry gathering in Cannes, King's standard songs are rendered with an orchestra led by Calvin Owens. This served as a prestigious show for King, which considering some of the dangerous dives and juke joints he's played in the past, this gig seems logical.
Having said all that, this CD is a long way from King's humble beginnings in Indianola, Mississippi. This CD provides a jazzy backdrop for King's music. The lush instrumentation allows King's compositions to evolve into a refreshing sound. "B.B.'s Theme" finds the band playing a funk-ridden opener that sets the tone for these ten songs.
"Why I Sing The Blues"--a King standard--sounds almost as if Sly & The Family Stone were his backing band. A driving bass allows King's guitar licks to flash amid the hip-shaking groove. This song sounds so far removed from the original recording one would never know its blues origin without King's inimitable solos.
Another King song, "Darling You Know I Love You", begins with a slow blues intro as quiet horns highlight the mellow beat that finds this song at the jazz-blues melting pot since there are no lyrics to the tune. "Sweet Little Angel" counts as bourbon-laced blues as far as King's playing goes, but the band's orchestration provides jazz inflections to this song. It becomes obvious this is not a throwaway King collection. These songs would transfer well to a live audience, especially southern cities like New Orleans. If it's possible to add elegance to the blues...this collection proves it's true.
"Everyday I Have The Blues" contains a swing that big bands employ. "All Over Again" resonates in a polished sound built around King's tombstone story. The piano and horns allow for a wider sound on "Guess Who" that gives the song a ballroom vibe. "The Thrill Is Gone" still contains the rusty nail reality of the composition, but the horns and piano navigate a jazzy-edge to this old blues standard. King's guitar prowess shines in "Caldonia" as this number would cause any crowd to dance. "Paying The Cost To Be The Boss", the last track on the CD, demonstrates that no matter how far King travels in his musical adventures he can't ever stray too far from the blues.