Friday, 13 May 2016

"Indianola Mississippi Seeds" by B. B. KING (1995 Beat Goes On CD Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...Can't Break Loose Of These Chains And Things..."

Eagles Producer Bill Szymczyk first hooked up with B.B. King for the June 1969 "Live And Well" LP on BluesWay – then helmed the superb December 1969 studio album "Completely Well" too. Those two well-received live and studio sets introduced B.B. King classics like "The Thrill Is Gone" and "So Excited" to a new audience (largely white boys digging the Blues) and more importantly helped the legendary Blues Boy break the Billboard album charts after decades of absence - "Live And Well" made No. 56 and "Completely Well" went higher to No. 38.

Meanwhile on his 1969 travels to Cleveland - Bill Szymczyk spots a local band fronted by an amazing guitar player/singer rocking a club. It was The James Gang and the axe maestro was of course Joe Walsh.

Although beloved in the industry for her songwriting genius with Gerry Goffin and her largely unnoticed band work with The City – in 1970 Carole King hadn’t made "Tapestry" yet and wasn’t the household name she would become throughout 1971 and beyond. Oklahoma songwriter and keyboardist Leon Russell had only just released his self-titled debut LP "Leon Russell" in December 1969 on Shelter Records (Joe Cocker would cover "Delta Lady" from it and create a hit – BB King would do "Hummingbird" - also on that album). Soulful backing singer Merry Clayton had famously duetted with Mick Jagger on The Rolling Stones classic "Gimme Shelter" from their classic "Let It Bleed" album in 1969 and was about to emerge into the limelight in 1970 with her own debut album on A&M/Ode 70 Records not surprisingly called "Gimme Shelter” (see review).

The point of this musical history lesson is that B.B. King's 1970 LP "Indianola Mississippi Seeds" (Produced by Bill Szymczyk) brought 'all' of these mercurial talents together for the first time. And I'd argue that in 2016 - it's one of those criminally 'overlooked' albums that shouldn't be. Time to rectify that careless oversight on our part - we children of Alan Freed and a frothing Robert Johnson. Here are the plugged-in watermelon details...

UK released June 1995 (reissued December 2008) – "Indianola Mississippi Seeds" by B.B. KING on Beat Goes On BGOCD 237 (Barcode 5017261202376) is a straightforward CD transfer/remaster of that album and plays outs as follows (39:33 minutes):

1. Nobody Loves Me But My Mother
2. You're Still My Woman
3. Ask Me No Questions
4. Until I'm Dead And Cold
5. King's Special
6. Ain't Gonna Worry My Life Anymore [Side 2]
7. Chains And Things
8. Go Underground
9. Hummingbird
Tracks 1 to 9 are the album "Indianola Mississippi Seeds" – released October 1970 in the USA on ABC Records ABCS-713 and October 1970 in the UK on Probe Records SPBA 6255 (gatefold sleeve in both countries). Produced by BILL SZYMCZYK with Strings and Horns arranged by JIMMIE HASKELL. It peaked at No. 26 on the US LP charts. Tracks 1, 3, 4, 5 and 6 are written by B.B. King – Tracks 2, 7 and 8 co-written with B.B. King and Dave Clark – Track 9 is a Leon Russell cover version. 

B.B. KING - All Lead Vocals & Guitar
JOE WALSH - Rhythm Guitar on "Ask Me No Questions", "King's Special" and "Hummingbird"
CAROLE KING - Piano on "You're Still My Woman", "Until I'm Dead And Cold" and "Ain't Gonna Worry My Life Anymore"
CAROLE KING - Electric Piano on "Ain't Gonna Worry My Life Anymore" and "Chains And Things"
LEON RUSSELL - Piano on "Ask Me No Questions", "King's Special" and "Go Underground"
MERRY CLAYTON - Backing Vocals

45s released around the LP:
1. Hummingbird b/w Ask Me No Questions
July 1970 USA 7" single on ABC Records 45-11268
August 1970 UK 7" single on Stateside SS 2176

2. Chains And Things [Edit] b/w King's Special [Edit]
October 1970 USA 7” single on ABC Records 45-ABC-11280
Chains And Things b/w King's Special
February 1971 UK 7" single on Probe PRO 516 (no edits)

3. Ask Me No Questions b/w Nobody Loves Me But My Mother
February 1971 USA 7" single on ABC Records ABC-11290
Ask Me Questions/Help The Poor b/w Hummingbird
June 1971 UK 7" single on Probe Records PRO 528 (Note: the A-side has two tracks)

The 8-page inlay has basic but entertaining liner notes from JOHN TOBLER. This is 1995 BGO – so the booklet isn’t like their 20-page tomes of late nor is there a pretty card slipcase (mores the pity) and could frankly do with some updating. It doesn’t say who did the Remaster but it was carried out at 'Sound Recording Technology in Cambridge' in early 1995. The audio is great – meaty in all the right ways. It has a very analogue feel - hissy in some places - but alive and kicking for all that.

With just B.B.accompanying himself on piano - it opens with the witty "Nobody Loves Me But My Mother" where the Blues Boy bemoans his womanless fate. Nobody loves him and he ain't sure about his mother either (could be jiving him). Next up is the slinky "You're Still My Woman" and we're introduced to another 'secret weapon' in the sessions - a writer's credit to a one 'Dave Clark'. B.B. co-wrote three of the songs with this Tennessee songwriting genius and although Clark never managed an album of his own – his songs crop up like good pennies in cool places. Clark’s "Homework" was covered by The J. Geils Band on their debut and used as a 7" single. "Homework" also turned up on the Fleetwood Mac and Friends double-album "Blues Jam At Chess" on Blue Horizon. B.B. would co-write with Clark again on the 1972 album "L.A. Midnight" on ABC Records (Probe Records in the UK). ABC decided to use Clark's wonderful "Chains And Things" as a 45 and you can so hear why. This sneaky electric piano riffs comes sailing in (Carole King) and it’s that fabulous 70ts fusion of Blues and Rock and Soul all rolled into one (a highlight for sure).

There are two funky instrumentals - "King's Special" (preceded by some studio chatter) features the band of King, Walsh, Carole and Leon all boogieing the session in a hipster jam. It's the kind of cool Rock-Soul-Funky instrumental that will turn up on some Soul Jazz double-album compilation in the next few years - an example of a long lost wicked groove that kids of today need to know about. The other is the Side 2 opener "Ain't Gonna Worry My Life Anymore" which is a weird one - like two songs in one - both different but excellent grooves. "Go Underground" hails from the "Completely Well" sessions and is a Funky bopper - could have been a great single. His cover of Leon Russell's "Hummingbird" ends the record on another Funky Blues vibe - great piano and those orchestrated strings. The bass is so sweet, Leon plays piano on his own tune and Joe Walsh gives it some chug in the Rhythm section and Merry comes in with the choir voices at the finale.

"Indianola Mississippi Seeds" is a wicked album filled with musical bodies that only complimented and enhanced the great man's mojo.

"...She gets me where I live..." - B.B. King sings on the cool "Hummingbird". Well plug me into that watermelon one more time...

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