The Life and Music of BB King & Opinions on Richard Thompson

BB King

International blues ambassador B.B. King passed away in May. Jim and Greg celebrate the life and music of the great guitarist with a classic album dissection of Live at the Regal.

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Jim and Greg kick off the show by celebrating the life of another great artist: saxophonist and free jazz pioneer Ornette Coleman, dead at the age of 85. While critics sometimes loosely toss around phrases about musicians changing music, in this case, it is an undisputed truth. Coleman forever set jazz on an entirely new path, with an influence spreading into the world of rock, as well. Artists like Patti Smith, The Velvet Underground, and Sonic Youth all stood in the shadow of Coleman’s innovations. He developed a musical philosophy he called harmolodics, which set aside the traditional approach of adhering to chord changes and instead created intricately layered melodies that favored each instrument equally. Though sometimes dismissed as dissonant noise, Greg contends that Coleman had one of the greatest ears for melody in music. As an example of Ornette’s unique approach to ensemble playing, Greg plays Jump Street from Ornette Coleman’s 1979 album Of Human Feelings.

Live at the Regal

Live At the Regal

B.B. King was the face of the blues for much of the world. Sadly, we’ll never get to hear him play his trusty guitar Lucille again. He passed away on May 14, 2015 at age 89. To honor the late great bluesman, we’re offering a Classic Album Dissection of his Live at the Regal concert album, recorded in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood in 1964. Jim and Greg are joined by photographer, writer, promoter and Blues Hall of Fame inductee Dick Waterman. Waterman was a long-time friend of B.B.’s and co-author of The B.B. King Treasures. He explains that while King was pleased that Live at the Regal achieved iconic status, he didn’t think there was anything special about his performance that night. Had they taped any other show around that time, the results would have been much the same. Still, the masterful control that B.B. had over his raucous crowd that evening became legendary. For Jim, the album resembles a celebratory church service more than any depressing blues stereotype.

If B.B. King’s on-stage persona is that of a humble, genial man, that’s because he truly was one in real life. According to Waterman, B.B. devoted hours after each show to meeting with his fans as a show of appreciation for their contribution to his success. Even after the mainstream commercial success of The Thrill is Gone, he always stayed true to his vision, never watering it down for his new white audience. He was one of the last of his generation of blues artists, but his legacy is going to live on.

Still Richard Thompson

Still

Still is the 25th solo album from folk rock guitarist, Richard Thompson. The former Fairport Convention musician collaborated with Wilco frontman and producer Jeff Tweedy. Greg wasn’t exactly disappointed, but a little let down after Thompson’s ferocious 2013 album, Electric. In Still, he explores some darker and more serious themes like loss of faith in humanity. However Greg was happy he balanced those tracks with lighter and more humorous songs like Guitar Heroes. He gives it a Buy It. Jim actually found Guitar Heroes cheesy. He also doesn’t think Tweedy added much in his production. But because of wins like Josephine and Long John Silver, Jim says Buy It.

Jim

Recently Jim re-watched David Lynch’s ‘90s supernatural TV show Twin Peaks. The program uniquely incorporated music to complement its twisted murder-mystery storyline. Singer-songwriter Julee Cruise frequently offered her vocals to the show’s soundtrack and collaborated with producer Lynch and composer Angelo Badalamenti on her debut album Floating into the Night. The single Falling, featuring Lynch’s haunting lyrics and Badalamenti’s dark composition, was used as the theme song for Twin Peaks throughout its run and remains one of Jim’s favorite tracks.

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