#499: B.B. King, Live In Cook County Jail

B.B. King, Live In Cook County Jail
IN, Live IN Cook County Jail…not FROM


B.B. King, Live In Cook County Jail

Release Date: 1971
Previously Owned: Yes

Impressions: Well, well…I’m surprised this made the list. When I was a kid, I used to go from Evanston across the border to the Wilmette Public Library to ransack the music section for records, tapes and CDs. I check out the maximum amount, take them home, and dub them to add to my growing collection of tapes. Now, there wasn’t anything too hip there but lots of blues, jazz and other roots music to round out my musical collection and keep it from being innundated with the likes of Howard Jones, Huey Lewis and Mr. Mister (funny how those bands haven’t made this list.) Flipping though the stacks of records, this album had a pull for me. “B.B. King – Live IN Cook County Jail,” not FROM …. IN. Woah, that sounds dangerous. What happened here? Did B.B. and the band get arrested and thrown in prison, just like at the end of Blues Brothers? Was their blues too blue? Also, there was a “hey, that’s the county I live in!” factor as well. I had to find out what was going on here so I checked it out, copied it and it fast became a favorite of mine. Flash forward to now, I haven’t heard it in 10-15 years. Here we go… First off, I just love the sound of this record. The atmosphere of the band playing front of the prisoners is electric. Maybe it’s that extra jail ingredient but the drums sound extra dry and hard, the guitars are a little more stinging, and the bass seems bottomless. B.B. and his band mostly plays straight-up blues but are never boring and there’s an energy that makes the record seem vital and not cliched (instead of like “Blues Hammer,” the faux blues band from the movie Ghost World.) B.B. is in great form all night, his soloing is agile and his singing is passionate and fun though out. Yes. Fun. Listen to the call and response on “How Blue Can You Get” and “Worry, Worry” (where he addresses both sexes of prisoners in the audience with humorous, if uh, slightly-dated monologues.) Throw in a wonderful medley of some of his older tunes “3 0’Clock Blues/Darlin You Know I Love You” and “Sweet Sixteen” plus my favorite version of “The Thrill Is Gone” and you got a live blues masterpiece with life in those grooves. It holds up.

Should this album be on the list? Well, it’s a nice surprise that it made the list and a personal favorite, so I’m going to say yes. But, I could see it falling off, since it’s so low.
Starred songs: “The Thrill Is Gone,” “Every Day I Have The Blues”
Sneaky Track: I love the Intro where they introduce the Warden and the Sheriff to a round of boos from the prisoners.
Will you listen to this again? Yes
Rating: ★★★★1/2