There are live albums, and then there are live albums. Some of simply documents of a band or artist at a point in time; others are a snapshot of a comet, a fragile glimpse of the celestial heavens that will never come again. Sam Cooke’s Live at the Harlem Square Club. James Brown’s Live at the Apollo. Hell, I’m more than happy to throw in Iron Maiden’s Live After Death…”Scream for me Long Beach!” indeed. When it comes to blues, you can take your pick of classic live documents, but one that has always stood out as a a testament to the form is Live at the Regal, the 1964 recording of the great, the singular, B.B. King.
For many folks B.B. King is an icon for having a guitar with the name Lucille. They know the name but not the music…not the lightning those fingers can call down down. Live at the Regal is the proof pressed to wax, the sound of electricity infecting an entire club. This isn’t the B.B. King of commercials, playing a single (yet utterly delicious) lick on his Gibson ES-335. This is young, hungry, ferocious B.B. King, ripping solos and singing with the passion and fire of a young tiger. Take any of the songs, from “Every Day I Have the Blues” and “Sweet Little Angel” to later cuts like “Woke Up This Morning” and “You Done Lost Your Good Thing Now” and feel what the power of a beautifully records, passionate set can do. This is one of the definitive live documents of all of music, and if you haven’t heard it, well…I guess you know what to do, don’t you?
As I started my vinyl journey one of the rules I set myself was that I would start getting better acquainted with blues. I’d heard and even head albums from the likes of Muddy Waters, Skip James, and John Lee Hooker, but my education was sorely lacking. So I spent a good amount of time researching what I needed to hear, and Live at the Regal came up again and again. I can’t stress enough how vital and vibrant a live record this is: you can hear girls screaming at King’s voice. It’s a revelation of music, one I encourage anyone interested in music to check out.