BB KING: ‘The Life of Riley.’

BB King-The Life of Riley is powerful, insightful and heart-warming feature documentary about legendary Blues man, BB King. Narrated by Morgan Freeman and featuring contributions by, amongst others, Eric Clapton, Bono, Ringo Starr, Carlos Santana, Slash, Bonnie Raitt, Buddy Guy, Ronnie Wood, Mick Jagger and Bruce Willis. 

In order to create as insightful a film as possible, director Jon Brewer worked closely with BB for over 2 years, amassing 250 hours of footage. This is a no holds barred, powerful documentary feature that explores how a black kid born in Mississippi in 1925 turned his life around, battled against the odds and against unrelenting racism, to overcome even the toughest critics in the entertainment industry, to become KING OF THE BLUES. The film is due to have a theatrical release in the UK on the 15th October 2012, with a DVD release later in the year… 

The original soundtrack was developed by following the music used in the movie. The original 2CD tracklisting contains 26 career spanning songs as featured in the film, in the same order they appear in the movie. The single CD tracklisting followed the same format, but has been edited down to 19 songs. Either of the prepared tracklistings offers the listener the same perspective as watching the film. Both versions also feature two songs never issued on CD: 

 – Walking Dr. Bill  (Live in Australia 1974)

 Sweet Sixteen (Live In Africa 1974)

So ….. that’s the general background. But what of the soundtrack itself? Well, in general I guess the music of a man hailed the King of Blues won’t need too much by way of introduction!

It’s ‘Blues’ don’t you know!

But what may come as a surprise to some are the many forms and styles that the Blues in general, and ol’ BB in particular can adopt.

This 26 track / 19 track (depends what version you buy) album will not alienate those who do not take to the more ‘heavy’ or ‘traditional’ blues.. Likewise, it will still appear to those do.  For instance, the opening track (the afore-mentioned never previously released on CD, ‘Walking Dr Bill – Live in Australia 1974) is an up tempo foot-tapper, more in keeping with a rock’n’ roll vibe that what many would regard as ‘Blues.’

This is followed by what I think may be a bit of a tongue in cheek, self-deprecating look at the Blues – a one and a half minute track called ‘Nobody Loves Me But My Mother.’ There is then the first of a few tracks that are as indebted to ‘soul’ music as to the ‘Blues.’ ‘I’ll Survive’ is heavy on the soulful brass section and lounge-piano backing. It’s the kind of track you could see a Michael Buble type singing. 

‘To Know You Is To Love You’ is eight and a half minutes long – the longest track on the soundtrack. Again, heavy on the ‘soul’ side it features some of that lovely, clean guitar-picking style that the great man has become famed for.

Paying The Cost To The Boss,’ blends guitar, piano and brass section beautifully into a real sing-a-long, before ‘Miss Martha King’ kicks in as, I’d say, the first ‘old style’ Blues song, with great saxophone and trumpet solos and a deep, slow, plodding piano bass line.

There are of course several of these ‘older’ styled songs on the album – like the very next one actually, ‘3 O’ Clock Blues’ which has BB wailing and picking like any good Blues Master should.

But then there are those Blues songs that are steeped more in their Gospel roots – like ‘Precious Lord,’ and ‘On My Word Of Honor’ which is more Doo Wop loaded. And since I’ve just mentioned two of the last four tracks, I should maybe also mention ‘Tired Of Your Jive’ which is the penultimate song and sounds more like it was written with the ‘Big Band’ sound in mind.

And of course, there are the collaborations, the most obvious being that with U2, ‘When Love Comes to Town.’ Now, I don’t have access to the sleeve-notes, but I reckon you can bet your bottom dollar that there are several other ‘guest appearances’ on other tracks.

So, although for the likes of me it’s the more ‘bluesy’ and traditional end of the Blues that makes this a great album / story, it’s also the variety of styles within the genre that have prolonged BB KING’s longevity and universal acknowledgement as one of the all-time greats of music in general.


About Cee Tee Jackson

I run three blogs: 1) (my author blog.) 2) (my business / dog walking blog) 3) (my music blog .. infrequent posts) Guess what? I'm a dog walking, wannabee author that loves music.
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