Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

B.B. King: The Best of B.B. King Volume One [Flair/Virgin, 1991]
Like Louis Armstrong before him, King has evolved into American totem and international ambassador, so reliable that he obscures his own formal audacity. Since he concocted his music rather than inventing it whole, mutating Mississippi seeds into an all-inclusive synthesis he no doubt conceived during his brilliant DJing career, it's hard to keep in mind how startling and triumphant he once was. This man was an r&b ruler in the '50s because he could do it all--not just electrify Robert and Lonnie Johnson simultaneously, but croon and growl and split the air while writing standards almost as fast as Willie Dixon. Anyone who thinks he's too smooth can kiss his ass. A