B.B. King - guitar, vocals
James Toney - organ
Wilbur Freeman - bass
Sonny Freeman - drums
Pat Williams - trumpet
Lee Gatman - tenor sax
James Toney - organ
Guest: Albert King - guitar
Many consider B. B. King's 1964 album, Live at the Regal, to be one of the greatest pure blues recordings of all time. The man himself has disputed this adulation over the years, stating that his abilities improved considerably over the next few years. Indeed, these June 1968 Winterland concerts go a long way toward justifying his claims, capturing the bluesman at the peak of his considerable powers. B. B. continues performing to the present day, and has by now established himself as a true national treasure; but as good as his later work is, it pales in comparison with performances like these 1968 sets. Here his guitar sound was raw, his singing more engaging and his fingers more agile. The music heard here is the real deal, played by a leaner and meaner Mississippi King, complete with soulful voice and distinctive, stinging guitar style.
The recording begins with King's band warming up. They open up with an instrumental performance of "Up, Up And Away" (a pop chart topper by The 5th Dimension). Toward the end of the second of these warm-up numbers, the band begins vamping as Bill Graham takes the stage and introduces B. B. King to enthusiastic applause. King wastes no time getting down to business, and delivers a double whammy of two of his signature tunes: "Everyday I Have The Blues" followed by "How Blue Can You Get." King's enthusiasm for his music is obvious, and when he solos, you can hear the sheer joy of it in every delicious note. The same can be said for the next three numbers, where his brilliant, inspired guitar playing defies easy categorization. Whether he sounds soulful, rocking, contemplative or down and dirty, King's guitar style and tone exudes authority, his vocals inspired passion.
Following "Woke Up This Morning," B. B. announces that Albert King is in the house, and calls him up to the stage. It's here the serious fireworks begin! Having B.B. King and Albert King together on the same stage is a remarkable experience. They tear into a powerful up-tempo rocker followed by an incendiary burn on "Sweet Sixteen."
These two bluesmen are so strong here, and so utterly distinctive in their individual styles, that one can easily see why they were so influential on the next generation of guitarists. Jimi Hendrix, Mike Bloomfield, Mick Taylor and Eric Clapton all studied these prototypical players closely, and their influence can clearly be heard in each of their individualized sounds. Fans of Stevie Ray Vaughan will revel in the two numbers featuring Albert King. The passion and energy of Vaughn's style is apparent in every searing note that emanates from King's guitar. The two Kings awesomely push each other's expressive abilities, and ultimately collaborate to deliver a true powerhouse performance that must have delighted this Winterland audience to no end.