Presumably made up from outtakes from the filming of Leon Gast‘s When We Were Kings, B.B. King Live in Africa ’74 is a high-quality document of the master still near the peak of his powers. Filmed in concert in Kinshasa Zaire (now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo), this beautifully-filmed concert movie features lots of close-ups of B.B. King onstage. Unlike many modern concert films, Live in Africa ’74 benefits from the “warmth” of being shot on film. The immediacy of hand-held camera work heightens the intimacy of the performance, a neat trick considering a crowd of 80,000 was present. The excellent liner notes provide important context for the film, and are essential reading. Surprisingly, King was largely unknown in Zaire prior to this concert, so his success there was based on what he delivered onstage rather than delivery of any preconceived notions. The booklet includes a good technical discussion of King’s guitar style, one that won’t put off non-musicians, either. Author Charles Sawyer’s brief notes explain clearly how King’s signature “butterfly” technique took the place of the whammy-bar function in his playing.
The performance is the centerpiece of the film, of course. Even though the band makes extensive use of charts (and is led by a conductor), there’s a very organic and free feeling to the proceedings. King’s economy of style and excellent use of dynamics (plus his winning onstage persona) carry the day. This Shout!Factory archival release is worth viewing for anyone interested in blues, in B.B. King, or in a bit of 1970s history.
About the Author
With a background in marketing and advertising, Bill Kopp got his professional start writing for Trouser Press. After a stint as Editor-in-chief for a national music magazine, Bill launched Musoscribe in 2009, and has published new content every business day since then (and every single day since 2018). The 4500-plus interviews, essays, and reviews on Musoscribe reflect Bill's keen interest in American musical forms, most notably rock, jazz, and soul. His work features a special emphasis on reissues and vinyl. Bill's work also appears in many other outlets both online and in print. He regularly hosts lecture/discussions on artists and albums of historical importance (including monthly events Music to Your Ears and Music Movie Mondays), and is a frequent guest on music-focused radio programs and podcasts. In Spring 2023 he taught a history of Rock 'n' Roll at UNC Asheville's College for Seniors. He also researches and authors liner notes for album reissues -- more than 30 to date -- and co-produced a reissue of jazz legend Julian "Cannonball" Adderley's final album. His first book, Reinventing Pink Floyd: From Syd Barrett to The Dark Side of the Moon was published by Rowman & Littlefield in 2018, and in paperback in 2019. His second book, Disturbing the Peace: 415 Records and the Rise of New Wave, was published in 2021 by HoZac Books. His third book, What's the Big Idea: Great Concept Albums will be published in 2024. Read even more about him here.