In a career that now spans more than 50 years, B. B. King has done everything in his power to elevate the blues to an artistic form worthy of respect -- a difficult task in times of racial tension, social elitism, and musical snobbery. It's fitting, then, that in being given the box-set treatment he so richly deserves, King himself has been treated with the class and respect due the world's premier ambassador of blues. KING OF THE BLUES features dozens of classic tunes that King either wrote or became associated with over the years, including "Everyday I Have the Blues," "Sweet Little Angel," "Why I Sing the Blues," "How Blue Can You Get?," and "The Thrill Is Gone." There are also rarities, unreleased tracks, and a 72-page booklet with a complete discography, extensive annotation by music historian Colin Escott
, and even some commentary by King himself. Starting with his very first recording, "Miss Martha King" (a song about his first wife), the set traces King's progress from a young bluesman struggling to find his way to an accomplished bandleader who never strays from his initial concept of the blues as an expression of human emotion as dignified as any other. Along the way, King became one of the rare bluesmen to excel as both a vocalist and an instrumentalist. His voice is extraordinarily elastic, identifiable for his impassioned "crying" style. And as for his guitar skills...well, just ask anyone who has played a blues or rock 'n' roll guitar in the last few decades, and you'll find out how much influence King has had to the instrument, from his economical style to his trademark trilling vibrato. It's been decades since King broke through to popular success on a grand scale, but it's always been on his terms. Even on his memorable duet with U2, "When Love Comes to Town," King rips through the tune not like a pro, but like royalty. Which, after all he is.