Tuesday, September 20, 2005


Several artists lined up to work with the great B.B. King, left, on his new album, including Eric Clapton.

Musical greats celebrate
blues legend

"B.B. King & Friends -- 80"


The great Mississippi-born bluesman turned 8-0 last Friday, and it's no surprise that musical guests lined up for this album to help celebrate his birthday.

It makes for an inspired get-together overall, with King showing no let up in his still-powerful vocal prowess, plus tangy string play he gets out of his beloved Lucille.

Those who keep up with the man include the Who's Roger Daltrey and a spirited vocal collaboration on one of King's 1970s hits "Never Make Your Move Too Soon." Van Morrison sings and plays a mean harmonica on a stirring "Early In the Morning." Most poignant is a pairing with legendary blues singer Bobby Bland, an old friend, on a mellow, countrified take on Willie Nelson's "Funny How Time Slips Away," which features an especially fine guitar solo from King.

Following up on his duet work on "Riding With the King," Eric Clapton adds some guitar fills to a solid updating of the classic "The Thrill Is Gone," complete with string arrangement. Mark Knopfler guests on the biting, love-gone-wrong "All Gone Wrong." Billy Gibbons of Z.Z. Top also lends a rasping vocal on top of his guitar work to "Tired of Your Jive."

Some unlikely pairings work as well on "80." The young 'un John Mayer sings and plays in simpatico with King on "Hummingbird." A low-key Sheryl Crow lends a nice vocal contrast to King's yearning on an intimate version of Little Willie John's "Need Your Love So Bad," and even Gloria Estefan gets down with her bluesy self on one of my personal favorites from King's 1980s period, "There Must Be a Better World Somewhere."

The uptempo, fun stuff includes the horn-driven "Drivin' Wheel" that features vocal help from the Eagles' Glenn Frey, and a closing blues boogie workout on "Rock This House" with Elton John and his band, recorded at the Caesar's Palace showroom in Las Vegas back in February.

Happy birthday, B.B.

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