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B.B. King - Indianola Mississippi Seeds

Recorded in 1969 and 1970 King cites Indianola Mississippi Seeds as his personal favorite album. "I know the critics always mention Live & Well or Live at the Regal, but I think that Indianola Mississippi Seeds was the best album that I've done artistically." The album charted on several Billboard charts in 1970 including reaching number 26 on the Pop album chart. Besides King playing and singing throughout the album many other recognisable names from the Rock and Pop world make appearances including the following: Joe Walsh & Hugh McCraken on guitars, Sherlie Matthews, Merry Clayton, Clydie King, Venetta Fields on background vocals, Carole King, Paul Russsel & Leon Russell on piano, Bryan Garofalo & Gerald Jemmott on bass guitars, and Russ Kunkel & Herb Lovelle on drums. A kind of who's who of the Los Angelese music scene that year. King sings and plays piano on the opening track "Nobody Loves Me But My Mother" which sets the stage for an incomparable set of blues and gospel rock songs, there's some light chatter between tracks that defines the good humor of the sessions unlike some recordings that blues artiosts have been subjected to for conrractual obligation.

King's signature Gibson ES 355 Lucille's tone is front and center as much as we deserve, his unique "butterfly" vibrato in full effect, and his voice and singing is pleading and angelically perfect. When accompanied by Carole King on piano his playing tends to be softer, gentler and more introspective (as on the album's second track "You're Still My Woman") but when playing with Leon Russel on piano the ensemble becomes more aggressive and percussive. There are some great guitar exchanges on the album (unlike any other B.B. King album!) with Hugh McCraken on "Go Underground" and with Leon Russell's piano playing on "King's Special." The Russell closing track composition "Hummingbird" is the most atypical track on the album and reflects B.B. King's ability to adapt to any muscial landscape and make it his own. I wish he'd been afforded more ventures like these recording session as opposed to the obligatory duet albums with other fanous (and typically white) guitar playes as the major labels have done to almost every reputable blues giant - as good as they are the results are somewhat predictable; for example Howlin Wolf's London Sessions and B.B. King with Eric Clapton, Muddy Waters with Johnny Winters, and Albert King with Stevie Ray Vaughan.

I used to see B.B. King play every year when his toured reached London at the Victoria Theatre, the opening act was his backing band Sonny Freeman and the Unusuals and interestingly he never performed any of the songs from this album - I suspect because they were more harmonically complex than his touring band would have to cope with - relying on his more standard crowd-pleasing repertoire as shared on Live at the Regal and Live in Cook County Jail frequently opening with the Memphis Slim standard "Every Day I Have the Blues" and at every show he would ask the bartenders to ring their cash registers in time with the beat!

In perspective - while I loved it and listened to it voraciously (and still do) - I didn't realize at the time it was released, much as all the major music critics failed to recognize the importance of Derek and the Dominos "Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs," - B.B. King's album Indianola Mississippi Seeds is unquestionably his finest studio album - and one of the best blues albums in American history. I'm not sure you can call yourself a genuine blues fan if you don't have at least one copy of this album in your collection!

— Leigh Baxter


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