B.B. King – Complete Recordings 1949 -1962 | Album Review

bbkingcdB.B. King – Complete Recordings  1949 – 1962

Enlightenment Records

6 discs/168 tracks

The passing of BB King is pushing music lovers, collectors and labels to come up with many retrospectives of his work. This one intrigued me as it was touted as a complete collection of B.B. early years on Crown Records. While it falls just a tad short of being complete, it is an immense and inexpensive collection of the vast majority of his releases for Crown and a great way to savor the flavor of the early King of the Blues.

Enlightenment Records is a London, England based label that specializes in retrospectives of blues, jazz and other artists. The low price makes it appealing, and the recording quality is generally pretty good, considering Crown was somewhat of an infamous discount label. Crown Records was the budget LP label for the Bihari Brothers, the men who ran the Modern and RPM labels. Crown started in December, 1953; they began reissuing Modern and RPM hits but their albums were lacking in the quality standards. They issued and reissued albums in mono and stereo and their lack quality control overflowed into their numbering and labelling of their records and along with poor pressing and packaging.

RPM first recorded B.B. on 78 rpm records. There were 75 sides total; one record had an alternate B side so that is why the number is not even. They also released the singles on 45 rpm records under the RPM label. RPM 304 with “Mistreats Woman/B.B. Boogie” was the first one released in 1950 on both 45 and 78. They later they switched in 1958 to issuing sides on the Kent 45 record label instead of RPM, the first of which was “You Know I Go For You/Why Do Everything Happen To Me.” You can easily find these record labels and their complete discographies on the internet as I did and see the body of work with all the other artists they recorded. B.B. was one of if not their most prolific artist, issuing 38 records on RPM and 59 more 45’s on Kent, a whopping 194 sides! That was the equivalent of 20 albums.

Crown Records sold in supermarkets, drug stores and in the discount racks. The fact that B.B. was relegated to the discount record racks may have worked to his favor. Despite the poor quality of the album pressings and cheaply made covers, they were more affordable and accessible to the general public because of their lower price. People who loved his singles could pick up albums at low prices to get more of the King. They waited over seven years from his first single to press an album for B.B.

Singin’ The Blues in 1957 was the first album the Bihari’s released of B.B. King. It was initially issued in mono only. It was reissued 11 more times by Crown and other labels over the years, and eventually it went from 10 to 12 songs. This was typical for all the reissues. In 1958 they released The Blues, the first of 8 releases of B.B.’s second album. 1959 saw the release of a B.B. King Wails and a Gospel album, B.B. King Sings Sprituals. It was released 8 more times. 6 versions of The Great B.B. King and 10 versions of King of the Blues were released in 1960 as was Compositions of Duke Ellington and Others. Sinatra was B.B.’s hero and he paid a little tribute with these standards; they would get 3 more reissues. 1961 saw the initial releases of My Kind of Blues and More B.B. King (they respectively would undergo 9 and 7 overall releases each). Easy Listening Blues and Twist with B.B. King were released in 1962. The former had five more releases but Twist was only released that one time. Created to cash in on the Chubby Checker dance craze, the twisting songs were unfortunately left off this new release. B.B. switched to ABC/Paramount Records in 1963, but Crown continues with Blues in My Heart (6 versions) and B.B. King (10 versions) were released by them after ABC released Mr. Blues. That is the extent of this new release as his next Kent Albums were done in 1965 along with two ABC records. 13 albums were released in his name on Crown.

So much of B.B.’s stuff charted over the years and that is what gained him notice. Despite his success, my research shows some of his early recorded stuff never made it to vinyl in the early days. This set has 13 tracks that Crown/Kent apparently never released on LP:

  • Boogie Rock
  • Don’t Get Around Much Anymore
  • Got The Blues
  • I’m Cracking Up Over You
  • I’m Gonna Sit Till You Give In
  • It’s My Own Fault
  • Miss Martha King
  • Pray For You
  • Take A Swing With Me
  • Talking The Blues
  • The Other Night Blues
  • Tomorrow Night
  • When Your Baby Packs Up And Goes

From this set, 51 songs never made it to Crown’s LPs back in the day, but many had success as singles. Also, 104 of the tracks included appeared on one or more of the early Crown LPs.

Next is a tally of what I found missing from the set.

The entire album of Compositions Of Duke Ellington And Others was entirely were left off this CD and were never released on singles. The tracks missing are:

  • Cotton Tail
  • Solitude
  • Jack The Bear
  • Sophisticated Lady
  • Jeep Blues
  • Take The “A” Train
  • Don’t Get Around Much Anymore
  • Main Stem
  • Mood Indigo
  • Eastside Westside

Twist With B.B. King included six songs from other albums and are included here. Four other cuts were not:

  • A5 Groovin’ Twist
  • B2 Do What I Say
  • B3 Rockin’ Twist
  • B5 Oh Baby

Sides from RPM and Kent’s singles apparently that were apparently not included in this set were:

  • Mashed Potato Twist
  • Mashing the Popeye
  • Tell Me Baby
  • Other Night Blues
  • Bim Bam
  • Dark Is The Night (Part 2)
  • Going Down Slow
  • Love Me Baby
  • Woman in Love
  • Sweet Sixteen Pt B
  • Got A Right To Love My Baby
  • The Road I Travel
  • I’m In Love
  • The Worst Thing In My Life
  • Christmas Celebration
  • 3 O’Clock Stomp
  • Lonely

From my tally, B.B. released 200 different songs. 168 appear on these six CDs, the other 32 do not. The ten from Compositions Of Duke Ellington And Others can be found on that LP which appears readily available used. Twist With B.B. King is not as readily available. Neither of these albums were released on CD. The other 18 songs are on RPM or Kent singles and may appear scattered in later recordings. Two of the included cuts appeared three times as sides on singles from that era (“Please Love Me” and “Everyday I Have the Blues”). Another 10 appeared twice on singles during that period.

So while my junior investigative work shows Complete Recordings 1949-1962 may not really be a “complete” set, getting 84% of B.B.’s songs from 1949 to 1962 for around $20 or less still remains a great buy. It is available at Amazon and many other locations on line.  Maybe someday the other songs will appear in one set with these tracks; until then, this appears to be the most complete set of B.B.’s early works for the Bihari Brothers on Crown Records.

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