I well remember a time in the early ’70s when Ian Paice and I shared a flat in Parsons Green. Despite, or maybe because of, the intense hard rock that we were performing on the road, we had a surprisingly eclectic listening taste at home. It veered, one might say alarmingly, from The Carpenters to Mountain, with the likes of Taj Mahal, Prokofiev, James Taylor, Hendrix, Vaughen Williams, Dr John, Elgar, Dave Brubeck et al. in between.
And B.B. King. Indiana Mississippi Seeds was the album that grabbed us. And for many reasons – great production, great musicians, great grooves (respect to Russ Kunkel), and an orchestra that doesn’t sound at all out of place, sitting with the blues.
Recorded mostly live in the studio, it’s an understated album that is all the more powerful because of it. If you’ve not heard it, it’s one of the greatest blues albums ever. B.B.’s signature playing is all there, at a time when it was still fresh, but it’s his singing that truly impresses, delivered with a maturity, an authority, that’s never in question.
There are stand out tracks like Chains and Things but it was the last track, Hummingbird – one of the first of many gorgeous songs I subsequently heard by Leon Russell – that caught my attention. What a song. What a songwriter. And what a superb vocal performance from B.B. King. Recognized more as a ground-breaking guitarist, it’s all too easy to overlook what a great voice he had, especially on this album. Just listen.
We have lost a true and humble gentleman of music. But his music lives on.