B.B. King pays homage to one of his idols and influences with "Let the Good Times Roll: The Music of Louis Jordan" (MCA). Jordan's music has undergone something of a revival in recent years, mostly thanks to "Five Guys Named Moe," a Broadway hit based on his jubilant brand of jump and jive, but for many fans, Jordan himself remains an elusive figure. That's tragic, because his hits from the '40s are crucial cornerstones for both rhythm and blues and rock-and-roll, not only in terms of rhythm and content, but also for their over-the-top style.
Jordan's classics--including 18 No. 1 R&B hits--were powered by the Tympany Five (who sometimes numbered as many as eight), and B.B. King has assembled his own all-star version: Dr. John on piano, Neil Larsen on Hammond organ, the legendary Earl Palmer on drums and a horn section consisting of alto saxophonist Hank Crawford, tenor David "Fathead" Newman and trumpeter Marcus Belgrave.
Jordan played alto, King plays guitar, so there's no attempt to merely mimic the music. Instead, King re-creates its genial, high-spirited energies, particularly on hard-charging shout-along rhythm numbers like "Ain't Nobody Here but Us Chickens," "Choo Choo Ch'Boogie" and the wry "Jack, You're Dead," as well as the hand-clap-fired "Saturday Night Fish Fry." Oddly, two of Jordan's best-known songs, "Caldonia" and "Let the Good Times Roll," lack their expected punch. King did have a Top 20 hit in 1976 with the title track as a duet with Bobby "Blue" Bland; the two perform tomorrow at Constitution Hall, so perhaps they'll roll it out.
King does bring a winning warmth to such sly ruminations as "Is You Is, or Is You Ain't (My Baby)" and "Knock Me a Kiss," while gleefully reciting warnings about women and woe--in Jordan's world, they're inextricably linked--on "Beware, Brother, Beware." It should come as no surprise, however, that King does best with material that's closest to the blues, whether a taut shuffle like "Ain't That Just Like a Woman," anguished ballads like "Somebody Done Changed the Lock on My Door" and "Early in the Mornin' " or languid, guitar-powered plaints like "Rusty Dusty Blues" and "I'm Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town."
(To hear a free Sound Bite from this album, call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 and press 8151.)