Picks and Pans Review: Six Silver Strings
Riley B. King didn't come by the moniker "The Beale Street Blues Boy" artificially. Born in 1925 on a Mississippi cotton plantation, he began singing in Sunflower County churches at age 4. By 18 he was performing country blues and gospel for troops stationed at Fort Benning, Ga. and then moved on to the streets of Memphis, including Beale. His unabashedly emotional vocals and innovative guitar solos eventually earned him a string of hits and latter-day disciples, including Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Elvin Bishop. This, the 50th LP for B.B., was released to coincide with his 60th birthday. Three of its eight cuts are about his famous guitar, Lucille, named after a woman who incited a brawl in a Twist, Ark. barroom where King played 36 years ago. That's about all those tunes have in common. The title track is a melancholy ballad about foregoing love for life on the road; My Lucille is a snappy gospel-tinged dance club ditty and My Guitar Sings the Blues is a rough-hewn moaner for the purists among B.B.'s fans. For the most part, however, this LP is designed to attract a younger generation of listeners. Big Boss Man sounds like a sequel to Michael Jackson's Billie Jean. (That Jackson connection should come as no surprise; Thriller video director John Landis co-produced the sound track tune from his own movie, Into the Night, and two other tracks on this release.) B.B. manages the generational crossover with no loss of musical integrity, skillfully marrying his blues roots and pop sense. His irresistibly soulful wail and penetrating picking are able to shine through any idiom. (MCA)
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