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B.B. King: There Is Always One More Time by David McGee

B.B. King

Two separate books were published simultaneously on September 16, 2005, to coincide with B.B. King’s 80th birthday. As it turns out, they complement rather than compete with each other.

David McGee’s intelligent, insightful portrait of the legendary King of the Blues is unlike a traditional biography in that it focuses primarily on the music, dissecting each album from the late-’50s Crown recordings through King’s breakthrough recordings with ABC during the ’60s, his pop crossover successes of the ’70s and successful collaborations of the ’80s with MCA, right up to more recent concept albums like 1999’s Louis Jordan tribute, Let The Good Times Roll. While McGee clearly reveres his subject, he is astutely critical throughout, pulling no punches in pointing out some obvious clinkers in King’s massive discography (like his “misguided” collaboration with Mick Fleetwood and Stevie Nicks on 1989’s King of the Blues or the guitarist’s unfortunate use of wah-wah throughout 1973’s the Sound of Philadelphia-inspired studio project, To Know You Is to Love You). Collectors and connoisseurs will be delighted by the studious track-by-track breakdown along with all the insider shoptalk about recording techniques (right down to the details of microphone placement and recording consoles). Some fascinating behind-the-scenes anecdotes are also provided in a series of Q&A interviews the author conducts with key producers like Bill Szymczyk–who presided over 1969’s brilliant Live & Well and its studio follow-up, Completely Well, which yielded the mega-hit single “The Thrill Is Gone”–and Stewart Levine–who brought King together with the Crusaders for 1978’s Midnight Believer and 1979’s Take It Home.

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