By Jeff Stevens
B.B. King fans received their Christmas present a little bit early this year -- after more than 50 years of recording music, the King of the Blues finally has released his first holiday album ever, "A Christmas Celebration of Hope." (MCA Records).
The recording is well worth the wait. King leads his touring band through a collection of contemporary holiday classics and throws in two of his own compositions for good measure. Not surprisingly, King covers holiday songs with a blues tint, including R&B chestnuts such as "Back Door Santa," "Blue Decoration" and "Lonesome Christmas." Several Charles Brown songs are featured -- "Please Come Home for Christmas" and "Merry Christmas Baby" among them.
King also rerecorded his own song, "Christmas Celebration," first released on Kent Records in 1960, and a new instrumental, "Christmas Love." The record closes with two songs for the new year, "Bringing in a Brand New Year" and an instrumental "Auld Lang Syne."
All 13 tracks get the trademark B.B. King sound -- King's expressive vocals, swinging horns, a rock-solid rhythm section and, of course, Lucille, his faithful guitar.
By buying this CD, music fans also can spread a little holiday goodwill. MCA is donating its proceeds to the City of Hope, a biomedical research and treatment center that brings lifesaving hope to those suffering from cancer, AIDS, diabetes and other diseases.
All in all, this fine recording likely will find a home next to the other classics in many holiday music collections.
A Christmas Celebration of Hope
Label: MCA Records
1. Please Come Home for Christmas (Brown/Redd)
2. Lonesome Christmas (Glenn)
3. Back Door Santa (Carter/Daniel)
4. Christmas in Heaven (Ward)
5. I'll Be Home for Christmas (Gannon/Ram/Kent)
6. To Someone That I Love (Brown)
7. Christmas Celebration (King)
8. Merry Christmas Baby (Cavanaugh/Smalley)
9. Christmas Love (King)
10. Blue Decorations (Gillespie)
11. Christmas Comes But Once a Year (Milburn/Shubert)
12. Bringing in a Brand New Year (Brown)
13. Auld Lang Syne (Arranged by King)
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