Recorded in 1971, but unreleased in the U.S. until 1999, B.B. King's Live in Japan deserves high marks for exuberance alone. Had Live in Cook County Jail not just jumped into the charts, this live album might have been released long ago. The recording opens with a swelling of enthusiastic cheers, as King launches into an uptempo "Every Day I Have the Blues." There are plenty of other classics here as well, including "How Blue Can You Get?", "Sweet Sixteen," and "The Thrill Is Gone" (which elicits another round of cheering from the opening notes). Live in Japan may not have the long-standing reputation of Cook County Jail or Live at the Regal, but it's an excellent album, with a decidedly different feel from these two classics. King's obvious enthusiasm for his music and for his audience is infectious, and you can hear the sheer joy of it in every note. And, for those who don't really feel that they need additional versions of well-known songs, let it be mentioned that Live in Japan contains King's only live rendition of "Hummingbird," not to mention a couple of unique jams.
B.B. King has cut a lot of albums since the success of Live at the Regal. And, like the live shows they document, none of them are any less than solid and professional, hallmarks of King's work aesthetic. But every so often B.B. truly catches fire; his playing and singing comes up an extra notch or two, and the result is a live album with some real sparks to it. Live in Cook County Jail is one of those great concerts that the record company was smart enough to be there to capture, documenting B.B. firing on all cylinders in front of an audience that's just damn happy for him to be there…
In 1974, B.B. King brought the blues back to Africa. Invited to take part in the three-day music festival which featured the legendary boxing match between George Foreman and Muhammad Ali, King played before a crowd of over 80,000 Africans and delivered a performance considered by many to be one of the greatest of his phenomenal career. B.B. King filled the night with his raw power, searing energy and heart stopping emotion.
Live at the Apollo is a Blues album by B.B. King and the Phillip Morris "Super Band" recorded at the famous Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York. It was awarded the 1992 Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album.
Recorded in the fall of 2006, shortly after B.B. King's 81st birthday, Live is really an abridged audio complement to a video release, containing 12 of the 19 tracks available on the DVD of the same title. King has made a lot of live albums in his time, but his approach hasn't changed much over the years. In addition to his obvious talents as a guitarist and showman, he has also been fortunate in that his chosen style of music, a version of the blues growing out of the swing-influenced jump blues of the 1940s, has not only remained perennially popular but grown in acceptance. As performed here by the B.B. King Blues Band, it is still essentially the same, a jazzy roadhouse music that leaves plenty of room for solos. At one time, most of those solos were played by King on his guitar, but now he is content to give the showcase to his horn players, as he does on "Blues Man," or organist James Toney, who claims the lion's share of "Rock Me Baby." There is still plenty of guitar work, however, and King remains seemingly as agile as ever. He is also a relaxed, comfortable frontman, engaging in easy banter with both band and audience.