REVIEW: “Riding With The King” By B.B. King And Eric Clapton Still Shines After 20 Years

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In his 2008 autobiography, Eric Clapton said of his longtime teacher, mentor, and friend B.B. King that he was “without a doubt the most important artist the blues has ever produced.”

B.B. King, in a Rolling Stone interview in 2000 in which he was talking about the original release of Riding With The King, said of his long time student and blues guitar playing descendant Eric Clapton that “of rock and roll guitarists nobody plays better than he does and he plays better blues than a lot of us.”

The two men shared both mutual respect and love for each other and for the glorious thing that brought them together – that wondrous American music genre that is known as “the blues.”

This 20th anniversary reissue by Reprise Records, Riding With The King (Deluxe Edition), stands as a wonderful testament and reminder of that respect and love. It also serves as a glowing historical marker of when these two men – two of the musicians most responsible for bringing blues to the worldwide masses – finally took the time to make a complete album together. 

The opening titular track sets the tone for the record as the interweaving nature of the playing of these two musical masters propels the listener into pure musical heaven. Clapton and King trade wickedly precise and complementing runs, as they do throughout the entire album, setting the stage for the virtual clinic of rock and blues guitar playing that’s about to take place.

Other fiery and dazzling highlights on this collection are the simmering and funk-infused “Marry You,” the slow-burning and epic scorcher “Three O’ Clock,” the up-tempo and boiling hot “Help The Poor,” the sparkling and impassioned Sam and Dave cover “Hold On, I’m Coming,” and the two bonus tracks on the album – the country blues smoker “Rollin’ and Tumblin’ and the Muddy Waters – type blues pop-rocker “Let Me Love You.”

As any rock guitar aficionado will tell you, there has always been a magnificent lyrical quality to Eric Clapton’s hugely influential playing in both his solo career and his work with the bevy of bands that he has played with. 

What this album makes abundantly clear is that he heavily adapted that style from one of his biggest heroes in King. To hear the interplay between them as they play side by side in the studio, brilliant teacher and brilliant pupil is still, 20 years later, an awe-inspiring and resplendent aural experience.

Riding With The King (Deluxe Edition) featuring an all-star backing band which includes Andy Fairweather Low, Steve Gadd,  Nathan East, Joe Sample, Doyle Bramhall II, Susannah and Wendy Melvoin, and Jim Keltner was co-produced by Eric Clapton and Simon Climie. It is now available on B.B. King’s website and on Eric Clapton’s website as well.

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