ABC Records, 1972
REVIEW BY: Curtis Jones
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/01/2012
This 1972 record of B.B. King’s was high on my list to listen to when I broke out my father’s LP collection. Why? Because this album, despite being released during a particularly successful period in King’s career, and reaching 21 on the US R&B charts, appears to be mostly out of print -- with the exception of a CD available online coupling this album with another King album from 1973. Do not mistake its lack of an official rerelease for proof that this album is a dud. To the contrary, this disc pulls together a wide array of session musicians including Joe Walsh (he of James Gang and Eagles fame) and blues veteran Taj Mahal. While it features a couple of extensive blues guitar jams, there is some experimentation that brings out a blues/funk sound in some of the songs, and King clearly has fun with the material.
“I Got Some Help I Don't Need” is a funny song that appears frequently in King’s discography, but occurred first on L.A. Midnight. King compiles an awful lot of evidence that his woman has been cheating on him and “bringing in some outside help.” Yet despite a strange Cadillac in the driveway, empty bottles when he doesn’t drink, a mailman who doesn’t leave any mail and a host of other exhibits, he still doesn’t seem to know for sure that she is actually making time with someone else. Just that he believes so. The guitar and vocals here are classic king and he is backed up by a tuba bass line makes it sound almost like a Cajun funeral march in the French quarter. As the first track, this funky jazz and blues mix sets the tone for the rest of the album. “(I Believe) I've Been Blue Too Long” is in many ways a cousin to “I Got Some Help I Don't Need” in word (“I believe to my soul”) and in its slow plodding rhythm driven by a tuba.
“Can't You Hear Me Talking To You?” is another funny blues number that proves how well the blues genre supports odd lyrics. It is hard to find songs in any genre that effectively rhyme “hearing aid” with “changes made “and include lines like “take my wig off your head” and “cut off your welfare check.” And, in today's media climate of the Real Housewives and Jersey Shore the "I'm tired of you acting like chicks on TV" line still holds prescience. The familiar “Sweet Sixteen” has King seriously feeling the blues and in this he pulls off the most emotional performance on the album.
L.A. Midnight also contains three instrumental tracks that exhibit King’s, Walsh’s, and Jessie Ed Davis’s solo guitar work. “Help The Poor” is a catchy instrumental with a moving train chugging drum, and bass and guitar rhythm. “Midnight” is a slow guitar blues jam with three guitar solos and a piano solo. As with many jams placed on the vinyl medium, the jam clearly went longer than the record could hold, and it simply fades out in what seems to be the middle. It is not a loss, though, because the molasses pace of the song and loose improvisations on the solos were not really creating a memorable track anyway. “Lucille's Granny,” on the other hand, wraps up this funky blues album in style with a twin guitar and trumpet lead with a driving bass line that carries the song.
Despite faltering some on “Midnight,” L.A. Midnight is a solid, enjoyable effort. With a long career and a body of work that is highly familiar to many fans, this album gives a taste of classic King with a funk and jazz undertone that pleases. If the powers that be decide to do an official rerelease of this album, or if you run across it in vinyl and have the ability to enjoy it, it is a worthwhile listen.