B.B. King heats up the holiday with his first-ever collection of Yuletide music, and, after a single listening, you have to wonder what took him so long. The man who most of us know as the greatest living blues guitarist imbues this well-chosen collection of blues and R&B Christmas standards with a playfulness and graciousness that marks most of his work over the past fifty-five years. Inspired performances by King's own touring band add to this enchanting surprise package, which skillfully manages to avoid all of the seasonal cliches, both by the expert musicianship, and the sheer warmth of his personality. Instead of just recycling weary classics, the bluesmaster has plucked little-heard songs like "Blues Decorations" and "To Someone That I Love" out of mothballs and given them a new coat of varnish and a jaunty Santa cap. Especially insouciant are his versions of the well-traveled "Merry Christmas Baby" ("I ain't had a drink this evenin'/But I'm lit up like a Christmas tree"), and the bawdy "Back Door Santa." In addition, King (who produced the album himself) also includes two originals in this collection: "Celebration," which was released as a single in 1960, and the newly recorded "Christmas Love." Not only will this record make the season bright; it will also help those in need, since all the profits will be donated to the City of Hope biomedical research and treatment center.
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