B.B. KING -- Live at the Regal (Mobile Fidelity)

B.B. King's "Live at the Regal" is considered by many to be one of the definitive blues albums. Its songs have been performed by countless other artists. Captured live in front of a few hundred lucky fans at Chicago's Regal Theater, the "King of the Blues" put on a stunning performance by which all others would soon be judged. King's style of guitar playing has been copied by just about every guitarist around.

Things get off to a lively start with the classic "Every Day I Have the Blues", and they don't let up till the CD's over. The guitar work is superb (yet never overdone) throughout the disc, and B.B.'s unique storytelling abilities are unmatched. All it takes is one listen to songs like "It's My Own Fault" or "How Blue Can You Get" and you'll see what I mean. Even King's singing style has been copied. Anyone who caught Eric Clapton's recent blues tours can attest to that.

B.B. has a great 6-piece band backing him on this November 1964 performance, and he gives them due credit several times throughout the CD. Most of the songs here are fairly short, so King doesn't get to stretch out much. "Worry Worry" is an exception though. Largely an instrumental (at least in the first half), B.B. really cuts loose on this one. The separation on the CD is excellent, due in part to the "primitive" stereo effect used when the show was recorded. The instruments are either in one channel or the other.

Mobile Fidelity has taken a spectacular recording and made even better on their Ultradisc II release. The sound quality on the CD is breathtaking, especially for a recording from this time period. Recorded direct from the master tapes, it sounds like you're right there. Not content to reproduce the concert in two 'sides' (like the album), MFSL released it uncut. All the songs segue into each other. They also used the original cover art, not the white and blue reissue. You say you want a lesson in the blues? This is a great place to start. The only thing bad I can about Live at the Regal is its too short. This is a great CD.

© 1996 Steve Marshall