Thursday, 27 August 2015

"Completely Well" by B.B. KING (December 2012 Japanese SHM-CD Remaster in 5" Gatefold Gard Repro Sleeve with Obi and Booklet) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...Think About You All The Time..."

There's so much B.B. King product out there - it's hard at times to isolate the real goodies. "Completely Well" was his 5th album on the American Bluesway label since he'd moved to them in 1967 with "Blues Is King". Released December 1969 in the USA (June 1970 in the UK) - it’s represented here on one of those natty Japanese SHM-CD reissues in gorgeous 5" card repro artwork. A fab mixture of Blues with Funk and even Boogie (his band was mainly white Rock guys) – "Completely Well" is a great B.B. King album – and on this format – elevated up the Audio ranks even further. Here are "The Thrill Is Gone" details...

Released 19 December 2012 - "Completely Well" by B.B. KING is a Japanese SHM-CD Reissue on Geffen/Universal UICY-94841 (Barcode 4988005743954) and comes in 5” Gatefold Hard Card American Repro Artwork (52:44 minutes)

1. So Excited
2. No Good
3. You’re Losin' Me
4. What Happened
5. Confessin' The Blues
6. Key To My Kingdom [Side 2]
7. Cryin' Won’t Help You Now
8. You're Mean
9. The Thrill Is Gone
Tracks 1 to 9 are the album "Completely Well" – released December 1969 in the USA on Bluesway BLS-6037 and June 1970 in the UK on Stateside SSL 10299 (both Stereo only).

The album was produced by BILL SZYMCZYK of Eagles and Joe Walsh fame and the band consisted of B.B. King on Lead Vocals and Lead Guitar, Hugh McCracken on Rhythm Guitar, Paul Harris on Piano, Electric Piano and Organ, Gerald ‘Fingers’ Jemmott on Bass and Herbie Lovelle on Drums.

10. Fools Get Wise – Studio Outtake recorded June 1969 in New York with the same line-up as the album

As any collector will tell you – these Japanese Mini LP Repro Sleeves are truly gorgeous. There's an OBI strip with reissue details on it (in Japanese) around the card sleeve (the SHM-CD symbol is at the top) and it's held in a resealable plastic. When out of the plastic - you see the lovely attention to detail - even mimicking the 'gloss' texture of the Bluesway gatefold sleeve, which was also 'hard card' like LP sleeves of the time. The Inner Gatefold has Ralph J. Gleason's original liner notes with photos of BB on stage and looking cool as he lights a cigarette. The booklet is a plain white affair with the lyrics in English and the remainder in Japanese. A SHM-CD (Super High Materials) doesn't require a special CD player to play it on (compatible on all machines) - nor does it need audiophile kit to hear the benefits. It's a new form of the CD format that picks up the nuances of the transfer better (top quality make). I own about 15 of them and they're uniformly superb.

His "Live And Well" album had turned up March 1970 in the UK on Stateside SSL 10297 – only three months before the release of the studio album "Completely Well" in June 1970 on Stateside SSL10299. The British record label preceded the album with a classic single that should have garnished more chart love than it did – "The Thrill Is Gone" b/w "You're Mean (Edit)" in February 1970 on Stateside SS 2161. But it did precious little business – despite now being a tune entirely associated with B.B. King. Just before the album hit the racks in June – Stateside UK tried the jaunty Side 1 opener "So Excited" as another 45 on Stateside SS 2169 in May 1970 with "Confessin' The Blues" on the B-side – but again no takers.

You have to say that the remaster on this beauty is awesome (it doesn't say who did it). 
B.B. King has all these white Rock guys around him – and McCracken's chunky Rock guitar backs up his licks – while Paul Harris plays those cool keyboard flourishes. With great production values and his voice in top form as he growls his way through "No Good" and "You're Losin' Me" – the remaster hits you again and again – elevating the tunes to another level. The brass arrangements on the wonderfully languid "What Happened" were arranged by Bert "Super Charts" DeCoteaux and what an Audio winner it is. The sweet bass, the guitars, the drums and the piano plinking – the audio on this sucker is fabulous – all the instruments fully accounted for. It then rocks out big time with a wicked cover of Jay McShann's "Confessin' The Blues" where Hugh McCracken’s boogie guitar underlines the song with a chugging Rock sound while Paul Harris plays a big chords melodic blinder.

His cover of Maxwell Davis's "Key To My Kingdom" is good rather than being great – far better is the Funky Blues of "Cryin' Won't Help You Now" – a slinky little number with a gorgeous Bass Line (B.B. puts in some of his most convincing picking on this). But then something unexpected happens – it extends into the next track "You're Mean" which is near 10-minutes long. "You're Mean" is essentially a huge blasting extension of the funky "Cryin' Won't Help You Now" where the band comes on like Led Zeppelin letting rip on the Blues – it’s properly great stuff. B.B. shouts at the boys half way through "...that's alright..." as they improvise and boogie like Canned Heat in the company of a great Blues man. It ends on the beautiful Audio of "The Thrill Is Gone" – a bit of a minor masterpiece frankly. The Bonus Track "Fools Get Wise" turns out to be a Funky Rock tune and at 2:38 minutes – it comes in, does the business and then leaves - a great addition and worthy of the moniker 'bonus'.

These Japanese SHM-CDs are pricey for sure – some over thirty quid – some below twelve – but there's something about the sound on them – like this is how CD should have sounded in the first place when dealing with analogue recordings. I can totally understand why fans feel that their fave artists should be on this format – mastered by the perfectionist Japanese. 

Seek it out – you’ll love what you’re seeing and hearing...and thanks for all the Blues Mister King...

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