B.B. King & Eric Clapton: No introduction necessary !
Riding with the King is a collaborative album by B.B. King and Eric Clapton that was released in 2000. It was their first collaborative album and won the 2000 Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album. The album reached number one on Billboard’s Top Blues Albums and was certified 2× Multi-Platinum in the United States. Riding with the King was also released on a DVD-Audio in higher resolution and with a 5.1 surround sound mix in 2000.
The album was generally well received by reviewers, although some felt that it could have been better, and that the sound on the CD was too polished for a blues album.
B.B.King & Eric Clapton in the Sixites:
Riding with the King was the first collaborative album by Eric Clapton and B.B. King. They performed together for the first time at Cafe Au Go Go in New York City in 1967 when Clapton was 22 and a member of Cream, but did not record together until 1997 when King collaborated with Clapton on the song “Rock Me Baby” for his duets album, Deuces Wild. Clapton looked up to King and had always wanted to make an album with him. King said they had discussed the project often, and added: “I admire the man. I think he’s No. 1 in rock ‘n’ roll as a guitarist and No. 1 as a great person.” At the time of recording Riding with the King, Clapton was 55 and King 74.
Clapton initiated the recording sessions for Riding with the King and included some of his regular session musicians on the album. He also chose the songs and co-produced the album with Simon Climie, who had previously worked on several of Clapton’s albums. While this would appear to be a Clapton album recorded with King, Clapton gave center-stage to King, who took the lead on many of the songs with his singing and his solos.
The album contains five “vintage” King songs from the 1950s and 1960s: “Ten Long Years”, “Three O’Clock Blues”, “Help the Poor”, “Days of Old” and “When My Heart Beats Like a Hammer”. Other standards include the Big Bill Broonzy-penned “Key to the Highway” (which Clapton had recorded in the early 1970s with Derek and the Dominos), Chicago pianist Maceo Merriweather’s “Worried Life Blues”, a cover of Isaac Hayes’s composition “Hold On, I’m Comin'” originally a 1966 single for Sam & Dave, and “Come Rain or Come Shine” from the 1946 musical St. Louis Woman. Two of the songs, “I Wanna Be” and “Marry You”, previously appeared on guitarist Doyle Bramhall II’s 1999 solo album, Jellycream. The album’s title track, “Riding with the King”, is a John Hiatt composition that came about when producer Scott Mathews recounted to Hiatt a strange and abstract dream he had of flying on an airplane with Elvis Presley. It is also the title track of Hiatt’s 1983 album of the same name that Mathews co-produced. The balance of the tracks were written especially for the album.
The tracks are a mixture of acoustic (“Worried Life Blues”) and electric songs (“Three O’Clock Blues”), and vary from slow numbers (“Ten Long Years”) to “mid-tempo stomps” (“Help the Poor”).
Steve Futterman at Entertainment Weekly called the “father” and “son” collaboration “triumphant”. Louis Gerber wrote in Cosmopolis that Riding with the King “goes directly to the heart and soul” and is a “refreshing and sensational album, the best in the popular music genre since the release of Santana’s Supernatural”.
Dave Ferman wrote in the Mobile Register that while the album was a “great idea well-executed”, it is not as good as it could have been. Ferman complained that, in his opinion, Clapton has never been a very good blues vocalist, that Joe Sample’s keyboards were far too prominent in the mix, and that the CD sounded too “squeaky-clean, … antiseptic and clinical” for a blues album.
Nicole Bode wrote in the Columbia Daily Spectator that on the album, King takes Clapton “deeper into blues territory than he has ever gone alone”. She said that King’s presence draws out a “raw, growling” side of Clapton’s voice that will surprise most Clapton fans. She was particularly complimentary of “Come Rain or Come Shine”, on which she said King uses “a mournful vibrato so tender it almost breaks your heart”. Bode also liked the call and response guitar and vocal duet of Clapton and King on “Hold On, I’m Comin'”, although she did add that Clapton’s vocals are not of the same calibre as King’s.
Riding with the King peaked at number one on the Billboard Top Blues Albums in 2000, and was certified 2× Multi-Platinum in the United States. The album also won a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album in 2000.
A 20th Anniversary reissue of the album was released on June 26, 2020. The reissue will feature two previously unreleased tracks, “Rollin’ and Tumblin'”, the video of which was released on Clapton’s YouTube channel on May 21, 2020, and a cover of “Let Me Love You Baby” written by Willie Dixon. (wikipedia)
The potential for a collaboration between B.B. King and Eric Clapton is enormous, of course, and the real questions concern how it is organized and executed. This first recorded pairing between the 74-year-old King and the 55-year-old Clapton was put together in the most obvious way: Clapton arranged the session using many of his regular musicians, picked the songs, and co-produced with his partner Simon Climie. That ought to mean that King would be a virtual guest star rather than earning a co-billing, but because of Clapton’s respect for his elder, it nearly works the other way around. The set list includes lots of King specialties — “Ten Long Years,” “Three O’Clock Blues,” “Days of Old,” “When My Heart Beats Like a Hammer” — as well as standards like “Hold on I’m Coming” and “Come Rain or Come Shine,” with some specially written and appropriate recent material thrown in, so King has reason to be comfortable without being complacent.
The real danger is that Clapton will defer too much; though he can be inspired by a competing guitarist such as Duane Allman, he has sometimes tended to lean too heavily on accompanists such as Albert Lee and Mark Knopfler when working with them in concert. That danger is partially realized; as its title indicates, Riding With the King is more about King than it is about Clapton. But the two players turn out to have sufficiently complementary, if distinct, styles so that Clapton’s supportive role fills out and surrounds King’s stinging single-string playing. (It’s also worth noting that there are usually another two or three guitarists on each track.) The result is an effective, if never really stunning, work. (by William Ruhlmann)
Doyle Bramhall II (guitar, background vocals on 04. + 07.)
Tim Carmon (organ)
Eric Clapton (guitar, vocals)
Nathan East (bass)
Andy Fairweather Low (guitar)
Steve Gadd (drums)
B.B. King (guitar, vocals)
Joe Sample (piano)
Paul Waller (programming)
Jimmie Vaughan (guitar on 06.)
Susannah Melvoin – Wendy Melvoin
01. Riding With The King (Hiatt) 4.23
02. Ten Long Years (Taub/King) 4.40
03. Key To The Highway (Broonzy/Segar) 3.39
04. Marry You (Bramhall II/Melvoin/Ross) 4.59
05. Three O’Clock Blues (Fulson) 8.35
06. Help The Poor (Singleton) 5.06
07. I Wanna Be (Bramhall II/Sexton) 4.45
08. Worried Life Blues (Hopkins/Merriweather) 4.25
09. Days Of Old (Taub/King 3:00
10. When My Heart Beats Like A Hammer (King/Taub 7:09
11. Hold On, I’m Comin’ (Hayes/Porter) 6.19
12. Come Rain Or Come Shine (Arlen/Mercer) 4.11
13. Let Me Love You (Dixon) 5.07
14. Rollin’ And Tumblin’ (Traditional) 4.32