B.B. King – Back in L.A.

“Back in L.A. waiting for the sun to shine.
Back in L.A. living down a life of crime.”

B.B. King is the kind of legend that needs no introduction. His status as the King of the Blues had been long established before many of today’s current musicians were even born. It is for this reason that B.B. and Lucille have been touring the world year in and year out, spreading the word of the blues (250 gigs a year and still going strong). His recorded output is just as robust, having released dozens of albums since his 1949 debut single “Miss Martha King” on RPM Records.

During his long tenture at MCA Records, King recorded the album “There Is Always One More Time” in 1991. As he puts out an album every other year or so, the arrival of a new B.B. album is met with some fanfare, but as is the case with most veteran artists, their hit catalog is hard to eclipse. Like Bob Dylan said, “no matter how great you are, man, you’ll never be greater than yourself” (‘High Water’, 2001). And in some way, you can’t blame someone who is seeing B.B. King for the first time for wanting to hear ‘The Thrill is Gone’ and ‘How Blue Can You Get?’. You do, however, miss out on some great songs from the artists most recent album. B.B., I must say from experience, always includes tunes from his most recent album on the corresponding concert tour. Bravo, B.B.!

The song in question is ‘Back in L.A.’, a gritty tale of the city of angels. It is always a thrill to hear Mr. King play some lowdown blues, where his powerful vocals and howling guitar licks can soar. During his recent concert outings, he will usually excuse the horn section and strip his band back to just drums, guitar and bass for an old school guitar workout. It is usually, for me, the highlight of the show to see Mr. King unwind those six silver strings and play the blues.

The production on this album is subdued and respectful, with the songwriting duties on this song and others being handled by Will Jennings and Will Sample. There is also the great title track written by King compadre Doc Pomus. While his catalog is vast, it is worth the trip to experience where the blues has been, where it is today…and where B.B. will be taking it in the future.

(The clip is from a festival in beautiful Sevilla, Spain in 1991, around the time this album was released. Seek out the studio version as well, it is a great track.)

2 responses to “B.B. King – Back in L.A.

  1. I have to say that this is my favorite BB King album. Every track is stellar, and the groove is very laid back in terms of the instrumentation. I tend to value the most those performances of BB’s in which he plays the most deep, dark blues of all. This is an album where that comes through most powerfully.

  2. Another song from this album with the same dark ‘vibe’ is ‘When the Blues Come Over Me’.

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