I am finding that B.B. King’s 1971 album Live In Cook County Jail is incredibly difficult to write about. It really is an album that just speaks for itself. If you think that you don’t have 38 minutes to spare to listen to this album, stop reading this review, get out your calendar app and set aside a block of time. I promise you that it is worth it. From the first riff on “Every Day I Have the Blues,” where King comes in screeching hot, to the fade-out after “Please Accept My Love,” Live In Cook County is fantastic–not to mention the hilarity of the inmates booing the Sheriff and the Chief Justice of the Criminal Court in the introduction. And I absolutely love the introduction of King:
“Now B.B. King is known to everyone as the King of the Blues. He’s been referred to as the Chairman of the Board of all the blues singers. He’s been called The Man. But however, whatever we call him, I know him to be just a fine, warm human being full of humility.”
That sums it up fairly well. The King of the Blues and the Chairman of the Board of all blues singers.
I’m actually a bit surprised (and a fair amount disappointed) that this album only made it to #499 on the Rolling Stone’s list. Sure, King’s Live at the Regal made it to the top 200, but that doesn’t mean this album lacks in greatness. And when it comes down to it, I’m a little surprised that the KING OF THE BLUES is only on this list twice. He’s the KING! Talk about a measure of greatness. Even U2 (ugh) managed to have 5 entries on this list.
Okay, so there are other great blues artists that might be considered “greater” than B.B. King. You’ve got Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson as two examples, both of whom made it to the top 50 on this list (and rightfully so!). But that still does not negate or diminish the greatness of this particular album, or of this moment in blues history. Nor does it diminish the greatness of B.B. King, and the influence that he had on music and on popular culture over his incredibly lengthy career.
If you have any doubts about whether this album is worthy of being called one of the greatest of all time, here are my top track picks to convince you:
- “Every Day I Have The Blues”
- “How Blue Can You Get?” (people that remember the 90’s may recognize the tidbit that was sampled in the Primitive Radio Gods song, “Standing Outside A Broken Phone Booth With Money In My Hand”)
- “Worry, Worry, Worry”
- ”Medley: 3 O’Clock Blues/Darlin’ You Know I Love You”
- “Sweet Sixteen”
- “The Thrill Is Gone”
- “Please Accept My Love”
What’s that? These are just all of the tracks on the album, in sequential order?
Yes, I am well aware. As I stated in the beginning, this album speaks for itself, so you might as well give it a listen.