After numerous on-stage collaborations, as well as partnering as members of the Louisiana Gator Boys in the ill-fated Blues Brothers 2000
, B. B. King and Eric Clapton finally got together to make a studio album. Arguably the two greatest living blues guitarists, King and Clapton have been friends for years, and their camaraderie and chemistry are on full display on 2000's Riding With the King
Even though the record was organized by Clapton, and recorded featuring the British bluesman's regular session musicians, Riding With the King
is very much B. B. King's record. His instantly recognizable voice tends to overpower Clapton's softer baritone, and Clapton often defers to blues' elder statesman on the guitar solos. That said, Clapton's presence is still very much felt, especially on the softer tracks like "Key to the Highway" and "Worried Life Blues," and the guitar interplay between the two legends is everything that a blues aficionado could hope for.
A track-by-track review of this album would be pointless, since it is made up mostly of King's standards and a few new tracks that sound like standards already. Songs like the playful and rollicking "Riding With the King" give the record an incredibly familiar feel--while the standards certainly aid and abet that feeling, even a blues novice who has never heard a B. B. King song will be tapping toes and humming along to songs like "Help the Poor" and "Days of Old," and swaying softly to the gentler rhythms of "Ten Long Years" and "Come Rain or Come Shine."
Every aspect of Riding With the King
is as good as expected--the guitar playing is dazzling, King's voice is as warm, robust, and powerful as ever, and even the notoriously soft-voiced Clapton is able to leave his mark. The only thing that keeps this album from earning top marks is what the two artists have already accomplished in their long and impressive careers--while Riding With the King
is a technically accomplished and very satisfying blues record, it simply cannot compete with classics like King's Live at the Regal
or Clapton's Slowhand
. That said, it would be a worthy addition to any blues library, and is an admirable showcase for two brilliant guitarists. And for driving music, there's nothing better than Riding With the King