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Ace (CDTOP1457)

Catfish Blues, Growing Old, Sweet Little Angel, Bad Case Of Love, Whole Lot Of Lovin’ Be Careful With A Fool, I Wonder Why, You Know I Go For You, Why Not, Goin’ Down Slow and more

The passing of B.B. King at the age of 89 on 14th May 2015 undoubtedly marked the end of an era for blues lovers everywhere. Mixed in with the sadness of the loss and reflections on what it signifies for the future of the blues, there was also the opportunity to remind ourselves (if needed) of the amazing recorded legacy he left behind.

Quite a few new releases and re-promotions have consequently become available in recent months, mostly consisting of his biggest hits and other better known sides. As usual though, Ace has gone that extra mile in presenting their commemoration with these 25 tracks taken from the vaults of Modern Records, featuring previously unreleased takes of A and B side singles issued on RPM and King during the 1950s and early 1960s.

These tracks were selected from a substantial reserve of unheard recordings, mostly kept back due to a preference for releasing other takes or because of recording or performance flaws. While some of these flaws mean that many of the recordings are unlikely to ever come to light, the complier of this set, Dick Shurman, advises in his admirable notes that accompany  this collection that there are many more recordings beyond these 25 tracks that that could easily be released on future volumes.

And, to these ears, even if these takes were not considered to be quite as good as those ultimately chosen for release, they are still uniformly thrilling and sublime evidence of a major blues legend at the peak of his powers.

As well as the great music on show, the listening pleasure here is enhanced by the fabulous track-by-track notes of Shurman. This includes his understanding of what the perceived deficiency was for each (or, alternatively, where the issued take had the advantage) and, rather remarkably, his interpretation of where phrases, licks and solos within each song may have come from or later ended up (either on a subsequent BB recording or employed by other artists, most frequently Otis Rush). This constitutes a serious piece of attention to detail that reflects admirably on both Dick Shurman himself and Ace Records in general.

And, if all this wasn’t enough, there is another bonus at the end of the CD with a short snippet of a radio interview with B.B. in San Francisco in the late 1950s.

Whether you have plenty of B.B. King in your collection already, or barely any, this CD is highly recommended.

Review Date: January 2016

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