B.B. KING & ERIC CLAPTON
RIDING WITH THE KING
Reprise Records (CD, LP)
By John Curley
Originally released in June 2000 and winner of the 2000 Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues album, this meeting of guitar gods B.B. King and Eric Clapton has been remastered for its 20th anniversary and includes two additional tracks that were not part of the original release.
Produced by Simon Climie and Clapton, the album features a stellar lineup of musicians including Jim Keltner, Andy Fairweather Low, Nathan East, Steve Gadd, Joe Sample, Doyle Bramhall II and Susannah and Wendy Melvoin. The resulting album is a great collection featuring many terrific performances by King and Clapton, who first played together in 1967 in New York City.
The album opens with the John Hiatt-penned title track. It’s a smooth, slow blues with some tasty guitar work and nice piano. It includes a spoken-word bit by King in the midsection. “Ten Long Years” features a terrific guitar break. The nuanced “Key to the Highway” has fantastic fretwork from both King and Clapton. “Three O’Clock Blues” has a wonderful flow to it as well as terrific guitar, particularly in the second half of the song. The acoustic “Worried Life Blues” is quite nice and features good vocal performances by both King and Clapton.
While King was mostly heralded for his outstanding guitar work, he was also a talented vocalist. And he shows that with his great vocal on “When My Heart Beats Like a Hammer,” which also features an excellent guitar break. The version of “Hold On I’m Coming” is slower than the one by Sam & Dave, but King and Clapton make it their own in their reworked take on it. It includes some great guitar work in the intro. The lovely slow and easygoing blues of “Come Rain or Come Shine” is a joy to hear and provides an exclamation point on why this partnership of King and Clapton worked so well.
The two added tracks are the blues standard “Rollin’ and Tumblin’” and Willie Dixon’s “Let Me Love You Baby.” The former features acoustic and electric guitar as well as some great guitar work in the instrumental bit that closes out the song. And the latter is a solid track with a powerful vocal by King that ends with a brief snippet of studio banter from King.
Among the formats in which the album is available is a 180-gram black double-vinyl package. A limited-edition 180-gram blue vinyl double-LP set is available exclusively in Clapton’s official online store and at indie retailers.