B.B. King is not only a timeless singer and guitarist, he's also a natural-born entertainer, and on Live at the Regal the listener is treated to an exhibition of all three of his talents. Over percolating horn hits and rolling shuffles, King treats an enthusiastic audience (at some points, they shriek after he delivers each line) to a collection of some of his greatest hits. The backing band is razor-sharp, picking up the leader's cues with almost telepathic accuracy. King's voice is rarely in this fine of form, shifting effortlessly between his falsetto and his regular range, hitting the microphone hard for gritty emphasis and backing off in moments of almost intimate tenderness. Nowhere is this more evident than at the climax of "How Blue Can You Get," where the Chicago venue threatens to explode at King's prompting. Of course, the master's guitar is all over this record, and his playing here is among the best in his long career. Displaying a jazz sensibility, King's lines are sophisticated without losing their grit. More than anything else, Live at the Regal is a textbook example of how to set up a live performance. Talking to the crowd, setting up the tunes with a vignette, King is the consummate entertainer. Live at the Regal is an absolutely necessary acquisition for fans of B.B. King or blues music in general. A high point, perhaps even the high point, for uptown blues.
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One of the hottest and most influential blues albums of all time, Live At The Regal finds B. B. King, the most visible and commercially successful blues artist the world has known, at the absolute top of his game. That's saying something, because over the years King has recorded many amazing albums, and even a few live sets, that are nearly the equal of this one. But one of the elements that makes Live At The Regal so special the fact that in 1964, King's career was somewhat in eclipse, thanks to the dominance of rock 'n' roll and the inroads made by early soul music. Who had time for the blues anymore? Well, the audience at the Regal did, and their explosive enthusiasm spurred King and his big band on to a performance that is thunder and lightning in a bottle. King's passionate singing on the medley "Sweet Little Angel/It's My Own Fault/How Blue Can You Get" and his extraordinary falsetto on "Worry, Worry" are the very essence of the blues, from low-down to ecstatic. And his guitar playing, using his trademark ringing, vocal-like phrasing, is economical, but each solo somehow throws a knockout punch. When it was first released, Live At The Regal was seen as something of a comeback album for King, but now it seems more like one of the peaks -- perhaps the highest one -- in a career that has seen many of them.