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Album Review

Released the week of B.B. King's 80th birthday, 80 is a star-studded duets album, the first B.B. released since 1997's Deuces Wild. It was recorded in a variety of locations in the spring of 2005 and features a variety of guest artists, ranging from the familiar (Van Morrison, Eric Clapton, Bobby Bland) to the unsurprising (Billy Gibbons, Mark Knopfler, Elton John, Sheryl Crow) to the frankly bewildering (John Mayer, Daryl Hall, Gloria Estefan). Unfortunately, the material isn't quite as wide-ranging — in fact, it leans toward the overly familiar, with a pleasant, thoroughly bland version of "The Thrill Is Gone" with Eric Clapton sadly living up to its title. There are a couple other bum tracks — most notably the turgid slow blues "There Must Be a Better World Somewhere," which drags on for an interminable seven minutes, or a full six minutes longer than needed to prove that sultry blues is not Gloria Estefan's forte — but for the most part, 80 plays better than it reads on paper. Most of it is solid, straight-ahead big band blues, firmly within B.B.'s comfort zone and sounding appropriately comfortable — not as in boring, but warm, relaxed, and friendly, whether he's playing with old friends like Bobby Bland or with John Mayer, who acquits himself well as a guitarist, even if his voice is overwhelmed by B.B.'s towering presence. There are couple of nice little surprises along the way, such as how "Ain't Nobody Home" with Daryl Hall works up a nice soulful groove or how Sheryl Crow reveals that she's a convincing blues singer (there are also some unpleasant surprises, as on "Tired of Your Jive," an otherwise fine track that's derailed by the realization that Billy Gibbons' voice has been torn to shreds, leaving a phlegmy mess behind), but the best moments come from the old guard of the British Invasion. Roger Daltrey proves that he's singing better than ever with "Never Make Your Move Too Soon," Elton John and his house band really cook on a terrific "Rock This House," but it's Van Morrison who steals the show with "Early in the Morning," a clean but down-and-dirty version of the standard. It's the best thing here, but it's unfortunate that it kicks off the album, since it suggests that this might be a harder-hitting blues album than normal from B.B. It's not — it's a slick, stylish, professional record, one that's actually a little more straightforward than he's been at any time since, well, Deuces Wild. Coming after some truly interesting records over the last few years, the predictability of 80 is a bit of a disappointment, but there's still a bunch of good stuff to hear, and, no matter how you look at it, for B.B. to be recording and still sounding vital at 80 is a remarkable thing even if the album that commemorates his birthday falls short of the remarkable itself.

Customer Reviews

BB Space & Respect, Please

Just because these songs are not the same as the old ones, it's tough for some to be open to hearing different people BB was already open to recording with. Lighten up! Good material, interesting choice of side-folks and now that BB's 80, just simply enjoy everything available from him and others wanting to pay respect. He still lays down his licks on this album clean and real.

Not good

Although this album features some good tunes ("early in the morning", "Rock this house", "Humming bird") the rest is just the same old boring "all star cast" stuff.

it was a gift to me

we all know from years of buying albums, cds, etc etc that not all songs on all cds are great. i found the album to be very enjoyable. of course i like some songs more than others, and others not so much lol mr king should release a whole album with van morrison. really. i also liked hummingbird with john mayer. apparently its supposed to be a dud?


Born: September 16, 1925 in Indianola, MS

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Universally hailed as the king of the blues, the legendary B.B. King was without a doubt the single most important electric guitarist of the last half of the 20th century. His bent notes and staccato picking style influenced legions of contemporary bluesmen, while his gritty and confident voice -- capable of wringing every nuance from any lyric -- provided a worthy match for his passionate playing. Between 1951 and 1985, King notched an impressive 74 entries on Billboard's R&B charts, and he was...
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