80 B.B. King and Friends
CD Review by Mike D'Ariano / 11/2005

Track listing
1. Early In The Morning - with Van Morrison 2. Tired of Your Jive - with Billy Gibbons
3. The Thrill Is Gone - with Eric Clapton 4. Need Your Love So Bad - with Sheryl Crow
5. Ain't Nobody Home - with Darryl Hall & John Oates 6. Hummingbird - with John Mayer
7. All Over Again - with Mark Knopfler 8. Drivin' Wheel - with Glenn Frey
9. There Must Be A Better World Somewhere - with Gloria Estefan
10. Never Make Your Move Too Soon - with Roger Daltrey
11. Funny How Time Slips Away - with Bobby Bland
12. Rock This House - with Elton John

Label: Geffen Records / Release date: September 13, 2005

Okay, what we have here is the incomparable B.B. King, jamming with a few of his big name celebrity friends, or at least jamming with folks that meet both of the following criteria: 1. They love and respect B.B. as much as the rest of us, and 2. The record company has decided that they'll likely help move the album. This friends, is not a new concept. We've seen Sinatra do it. We've seen Willie Nelson do it. We've seen Santana do it. Plus we've seen B.B. King do it, at least twice previously.

First, in the early nineties, there was the absolutely 100% essential album, "B.B. King- Blues Summit." That one saw B.B. playing on each track with a different blues legend like John Lee Hooker, Buddy Guy, Albert Collins, and the real gems . . . the ladies: Ruth Brown, Etta James, KoKo Taylor, Irma Thomas, and Katie Webster. If you like the blues, you need to own this record, and since as I write this, someone is selling it used on Amazon for just $3.99, you have no excuse.

Next came "Deuces Wild," which was B.B. playing with different artists form different genres. Willie Nelson, Bonnie Raitt, Dr. John and others lend a hand, or a voice, and all in all it's a more than decent collection, but does come off kind of gimmicky. The only really out of this world track is B.B. playing "Paying the Cost to Be The Boss" with The Rolling Stones.

Now, 8 years later, to commemorate B.B.'s eightieth birthday, we get "80," a new collection of duets. The lineup this time around is, to my tastes, the least interesting bunch. Van Morrison (who I like very much and am not including in my un-interesting accusation) and Eric Clapton (who I find boring, over-rated and yes, UNINTERESTING) are both included on 80, as they were on the Deuces Wild album.

Some of the other guests include the guy from Z.Z. Top (Billy Gibbons), the guy from Dire Straits (Mark Knopfler), the guy from The Eagles (Glenn Frey) and the guy from The Who (Roger Daltry) . . . what is it 1978? Elton John, Gloria Estefan, the guy from Hall and Oates (Darryl Hall or John Oates - who knows, better still, who cares?) round out the roster and don't do much by way of bringing the talent into the past quarter century. That job falls squarely in the hands of Sheryl Crow and John Mayer. Go ahead, you can groan . . . I won't tell.

With that said, the album is still very enjoyable and probably just a touch better than "Deuces Wild" overall. The number with Van Morrison ("Early In The Morning") is classic. The numbers with Billy Gibbons ("Tired of Your Jive"), Gloria Estefan ("There Must Be A Better World Somewhere") and Elton John ("Rock This House") are all great. And the numbers with Sheryl Crow ("Need Your Love So Bad"), and Hall & Oates boy ("Ain't Nobody Home"), are way better than you'd expect. Oh, and "Funny How Time Slips Away", with bluesman Bobby Blue Bland, who I once saw open for B.B., is another fantastic cut, which could have been included on Blues Summit all those years ago . . . it kinda steals the show.

B.B. King is a legend for a reason, and as you listen to him make enjoyable music while carrying a collection of has-beens and hangers-on, you'll see why . . . he just makes everything sound good. There are better B.B. King albums out there that you should get first if you don't have them already, but if you've been keeping on top of his releases, this is a worthy addition to your collection.