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
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
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
ó Steve Knopper