Picks and Pans Review: B.B. King

updated 10/03/2005 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/03/2005 AT 01:00 AM EDT

B.B. King & Friends: 80

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To mark the occasion of his 80th birthday on Sept. 16, B.B. King has released this surprising, exhilarating album on which the renowned blues guitarist performs with 12 pop-star pals. And 80 finds King, still a fixture on the blues club circuit, playing and singing with the vigor, freshness and clarity of a man 50 years his junior. In fact, if anyone has to keep up, it's such A-list guests as Van Morrison, Sheryl Crow and Roger Daltrey. Eric Clapton certainly holds his own on the electrifying "The Thrill Is Gone," as does Mark Knopfler, who on "Hummingbird" rises to the exalted standard of his collaborations with Chet Atkins. And Elton John, exercising the blues muscle he usually sublimates, helps King turn "Rock This House" into a three-minute clinic on R&B. Gloria Estefan, Glenn Frey and John Mayer are also on board; it's interesting to speculate on who else should have been included: Bonnie Raitt, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder and, if he had lived to join in the party, Ray Charles. As it stands, however, this is a noble testimonial to one of the masters of pop music.

DOWNLOAD THIS: "The Thrill Is Gone"

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