B.B. King - A Christmas Celebration of Hope (2001)
Now that Charles Brown is gone, it's up to B.B. King to uphold the blues for Christmas. If this first collection of holiday music is any indication, he deserves his own igloo in the North Pole. Self-produced with his touring band in New Orleans during a spring heat wave, A Christmas Celebration of Hope finds King overcoming both the heat and Yuletide music clichés, turning out an inspired and rollicking album that is lit from within by King's generous spirit and gracious heart. Like others before him, King dipped into the blues and R&B holiday canon, but instead of just recycling well-worn classics, he plucked gems like "Blues Decorations" and "Backdoor Santa" out of obscurity and polished them to a high gloss. When King does cover standards, like "Merry Christmas, Baby" and "I'll Be Home for Christmas," he imbues them with his own earthy personality and sleek, restrained playing. King also includes two originals in this surprise package: "Celebration," which he first released in 1960, and the new instrumental, "Christmas Love." This record not only will make Christmas merrier for the listener, it will also help people suffering from cancer, HIV/AIDS, and diabetes, as King has donated the proceeds to the City of Hope, the world-renowned biomedical research and treatment center. --Jaan Uhelszki
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