B.B. King & Friends – 80

B.B. King & Friends - 80

B.B. King & Friends – 80

To mark his 80th birthday, the King of the Blues has cut an album of duets with friends old and new. The gimmick is nothing new, but when it’s the King, you sit up, take notice, and give it a spin.

Everyone knows B.B. still has the blues, even 80 years on. But the big question here is, “Can Elton John sing the blues?”

The answer is a resounding – and highly surprised – yes! On their duet, “Rock This House,” the King and the Sir stir it up right. Elton sounds more akin to a Delta juke-joint shouter than a posh English popster here – although we’re not suggesting he should cut an album of ol’ Mississippi faves.

The best of 80, however, are the duets, which is no surprise. Van Morrison’s “Early in the Morning” revives his youthful and soulful ways and days. Billy F Gibbons lends his growl and grinding guitar to “Tired of Your Jive,” although he respectfully takes a back seat to the King when you wish he’d dig in a bit. On “All Over Again,” Mark Knopfler trades fingerpicked licks with B.B., and the two blend beautifully. Clapton’s duet on “The Thrill is Gone” and Bobby Bland’s on “Funny How Time Slips Away” best recount the “good old days” of the King’s career.

The duets with folk like Sheryl Crow, Gloria Estefan, Glenn Frey, and Roger Daltrey are a bit strange. Their genre-bending star power is simply not needed on a B.B. King album, even 80 years on.

This article originally appeared in VG‘s Jan. ’06 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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