B.B. King
Let the Good Times Roll: The Music of Louis Jordan
MCA 088 112 042-2

Even when B.B. King is in good humor ó we just love the bit in "Better Not Look Down" when the Queen of England spots him on the street and shouts, "Arenít you B.B. King?" ó he comes across a little blue. So itís strange to hear him sing jumping R&B made for goofy rubber faces and comedic fantasies about chickens, fish fries and big, hot heads. Mostly, on "Is You Is, Or Is You Ainít (My Baby)" and "Somebody Done Changed the Lock on My Door," King canít help but slow the music down to his own cocktail-blues speed.

Louis Jordan may have been a í40s jump-blues pioneer who set the stage for rockíníroll with his neighborhood fantasies and warm, clowning spirit, but "Let the Good Times Roll" is B.B. Kingís album. Itís even more distinctively King than, say, "Deuces Wild," which invited a bunch of big-name rock stars to horn in on the masterís spotlight. On this album, King not only gives beloved Jordan classics like the title track, "Caldonia" and "Choo Choo ChíBoogie" new insight and spirit, he reveals a surprising amount about himself.

B.B. converts "Buzz Me," for example, into a prototypical 12-bar King blues ballad in which horns bleat softly in the background and Lucille pops up to conclude a few verses in her familiar way. But where Jordan centers his version on buzzing saxophones and the words "buzz me," King plays down the clutter and emphasizes "I canít believe that you donít want me."

Similarly, "Early in the Morning" doesnít describe Jordanís greasy-spoon breakfast on a memorable morning-after. Instead, King rushes through the title to get to the punch line: "And I ainít got nothing but the blues." The line is almost as sad and cathartic as such well-known King conclusions as "How Blue Can You Get?"

Croaky guest star Dr. John, known to play the ham a few times in his career, canít even rouse King from the melancholy he prefers on "Is You Is, Or Is You Ainít (My Baby)." Not that King canít be funny ó the man is almost as famous for his good-natured showmanship as he is for singing and guitar-playing. In fact, his version of "Beware, Brother, Beware" is almost as priceless as Jordanís original, featuring King bantering with a mumbling chorus of yes-men.

For fans of both Jordan and King, the fun of Let the Good Times Roll is in hearing THIS voice deliver THAT line. King proclaims "Jack, you dead!" as if heís an actor given the ultimate mob-movie role.

On the CDís back cover, King attempts to shift the spotlight to Jordan, whom he calls "a great musician, and in my opinion, way ahead of his time." But the fact is, nobody takes the spotlight off B.B. King ó not even Louis Jordan, or B.B. King himself.

ó Steve Knopper

©2000 Blues Access, Boulder, Colorado, USA