B.B. King - guitar, vocals; Milton Hopkins - guitar; Ron Levi - piano; Wilbur Freeman - bass; Sonny Freeman - drums; Joseph Burton - trombone; John Browney - trumpet; Earl Turpenton - alto sax; Louis Hubert - tenor sax
These two Fillmore East sets by the great American blues guitarist, singer and songwriter, B.B. King, capture him at the peak of popularity. The previous year, his remake of the Roy Hawkins' tune, "The Thrill Is Gone," raced up both the pop and R&B charts, gaining him many more fans and more media attention than at any other time in his career. For the first time, he was experiencing mainstream success, and he sounds passionate and full of conviction.
Fans of his Live at Cook County Jail LP will find these shows just as remarkable, if not more so. King always delivered well-rehearsed, utterly professional shows, and these are no exception; in fact, he sounds even more relaxed and spontaneous here. King has obvious enthusiasm for his music, and when he solos you can hear the sheer joy of it in every note. His brilliant, inspired guitar playing defies easy categorization. Whether he sounds soulful, rocking, contemplative, or down and dirty, his guitar style and tone exudes authority with every note.
This early show begins as King is taking the stage following a band warm up number, and he dives right into what he does best with the powerhouse slow blues of "Let Me Love You." For most of the song, King solos over the piano, bass and drums, with his delicious guitar tone unadorned. Not until the last two minutes does the rest of the group kick in. "Walkin' Doctor Bill" increases the tempo and excitement level. "So Excited" and "(Ain't That) Just Like A Woman" feature swinging horn punctuation and infectious piano from Ron Levi. The latter jams directly into a short instrumental, showcasing the other guitar player, Milton Hopkins, who cranks up his wah-wah pedal to the audiences' audible delight. Another instrumental follows, this one a laid back exercise that lets the sax players have a blow. King returns to the mike for "Please Accept My Love," and a fantastic version of "The Thrill Is Gone" follows, with King in great form, peeling off delicious solos and singing with utter conviction. Another short jam follows, again featuring Hopkins on wah-wah guitar with the horn section letting loose. The set ends with another powerhouse slow blues, "Sweet Sixteen."
This is a very enjoyable set, but a mere warm up for the late show.