At the time of his death on May 14, 2015 at the age of 89, legendary bluesman Riley B. "B.B." King left behind more than 60 studio and live albums, not to mention countless anthologies drawing on different aspects and time periods of his extraordinary career. Late in the year, though, Ace Records added another key collection to that total with the release of Here's One You Didn't Know About: From the RPM and Kent Vaults. All but two tracks on this 25-song, nearly 80-minute CD are previously unreleased, and the two tracks that have been issued are recent discoveries that have only appeared once before on a new RPM compilation.
The songs - primarily alternate takes - on this collector-oriented release have been culled from King's 1950s/early 1960s recordings for Saul and Jules Bihari's Modern Records family of labels where he cut his first albums. King departed Modern for the bigger ABC Records in 1962, and at ABC he continued to hone and refine his tone. But The King of the Blues' Modern era was the one which established his artistic significance and established the path that he followed right up until his death. Most of the songs here were written by King and showcase his gifted leads as well as the fine musicianship of the pros who surrounded him.
Researched and compiled by Roger Armstrong and Dick Shurman, Here's One You Didn't Know About takes its title from a comment made by King at a 1961 session in which he decides to deviate from the plan to record "Catfish Blues" a.k.a. "Fishin' After Me." That track opens this set. Those intimately familiar with the final versions of the songs featured here will notice numerous variations - in lyrics, phrasing, and of course, King's playing. Shurman explains in the lengthy liner notes how the selections were chosen: "We were looking for powerful performances without egregious flaws, with extra points if the song was new or if variations cast a familiar song in a different light...We were shooting for a compilation which would be especially interesting to collectors who would appreciate the nuances, but even more, a stimulating and rewarding listen which would serve an affirmation not of flaws but of magnificence and timeless greatness, albeit with the occasional light extra pinch of humanity."
Ace has succeeded mightily on that count, and for those who want to compare each track to the completed versions, the track notes happily describe the variations for which you should be listening. Photographs of the original tape boxes illustrate the 16-page color booklet. Duncan Cowell has remastered all of the tracks, most of which are presented in mono.
King's Modern-era blues-and-soul sounds are as striking today as when first recorded; Here's One You Didn't Know About makes for an essential journey through the master's creative process in his early days. It's available now at the links below.
- Catfish Blues a.k.a. Fishin' After Me (Alternate of Kent 351) (*)
- Be Careful Baby (*)
- Growing Old (Take 2 of Kent 470)
- Gotta Find My Baby a.k.a. What a Way to Go (1960s Version, Take 8) (*)
- Long Nights (The Feeling They Call the Blues) (Take 4 of Kent 389) (*)
- Loving You in Vain (a.k.a. Heartache and Pain) (Alternate of Ace CDCHM 996)
- Shut Your Mouth (Take 1 of RPM 430)
- Sweet Little Angel (Version 1) (Alternate of RPM 468)
- Sweet Little Angel (Version 2) (Take 1 of RPM LP 3005)
- Bad Case of Love (Take 6 of Kent 362) (*)
- Talkin' the Blues (Take 2 of RPM 435)
- Whole Lot of Lovin' (1962 Re-Record) (Take 1 of Kent 388) (*)
- You Know I Go for You (Alternate of Kent 301)
- You've Been an Angel (Take 1 of Kent 315)
- Be Careful with a Fool (Take 11 of RPM 494)
- When My Heart Beats Like a Hammer (Take 1 of RPM 412)
- Don't You Want a Man Like Me (Take 3 of RPM 411)
- Early in the Morning (Take 2 of RPM 486)
- I Wonder Why (Take 4 of Kent 447) (*)
- Partin' Time (Take 3 of Kent 346) (*)
- Soul Beat a.k.a. Powerhouse (Take 1 of Kent 475) (*)
- Why Not (Take 8-A of Ace ABOXCD 8) (*)
- The Woman I Love (Copper Colored Mama) (Take 3 of RPM 408) (*)
- Whole Lotta Meat a.k.a. Hey Little Girl (Take 10 of Ace LP CHD 201) (*)
- Going Down Slow (1959 Version) (Take 2 of Galaxy LP 8202) (*)
Mono except (*) stereo