B.B. KING Live At The Regal (MCA) 

Like near-contemporaneous live albums by James Brown and Sam Cooke, “Live At The Regal”, recorded at the titular Chicago venue on 21 November 1964, expertly whips the audience up into a brief, breathless frenzy, its methods perhaps perfected during the package tours that were popular at the time. It fair bowls over the newbie B.B. King listener, with his big, rich and mellow guitar tone positioned on the right of the stage and just the right amount of crowd reaction kept in: when the sleevenotes boast “There probably isn’t a live recording anywhere that contains more spontaneous spectator enthusiasm” it’s not entirely hype. The show’s structure is finely modulated, with King’s interjections and spoken introduction only enhancing the experience, never disrupting the molten flow.

It’s hard to pick highlights from a set as slickly consistent as this one, but for me it peaks on John Lee Hooker‘s bad boy confessional “It’s My Own Fault” and its gender-reversed equivalent “You Done Lost Your Good Thing Now”, though points are also scored by the pleading falsetto howl King conjures up during “Worry, Worry” and even the somewhat incongruous samba of the closing “Help The Poor”. Really, though, “Live At The Regal” is a classic of its genre, and perhaps the highest praise I can offer is that, at less than 35 minutes, there really could and should have been more of it. Even the current standard vinyl pressing, of no declared audiophile pretensions, sounds really good.