BB King: The Life of Riley (2014)

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Released 19-Mar-2014

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Main Menu Audio & Animation
Music Video-Live Performance
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2014
Running Time 118:35
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Jon Brewer
Bounce Productions
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Starring None Given
Case Amaray-Opaque
RPI ? Music None Given

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English (Burned In) Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     A music documentary won the Oscar this year for Best Documentary, an excellent movie called 20 Feet from Stardom which revealed the lives and challenges of the backup singers who played a large role in many great songs. Another documentary of comparable quality is the one released here by Anchor Bay entertainment about the great blues guitarist and singer, B. B. King. It is entitled B.B. King - The Life of Riley and was directed by Jon Brewer, who has had a long career in rock band management, record production, video sales and rentals and music documentary making. He is now working on a similar project around Nat King Cole.

     This two hour documentary is an affectionate portrait of one of the great blues players who came from humble farming origins in Mississippi to become probably the most successful blues crossover artist ever with many successful songs such as The Thrill is Gone and his mega hit with U2, When Love Comes to Town. Blues fans, however, knew and loved his music long before his crossover hits. He was born in 1925 is rural Mississippi to a dirt poor family of sharecroppers. He worked in the fields from a young age but also learned to love music, eventually running away to Memphis to start his long career. He battled racism, the long hard life on the road, sometimes playing every night of the year, relationship challenges and more. Despite the challenges he is known and respected as an easy going, friendly person by those who know him. This is counter balanced by his reputation as a bit of a ladies man and a few broken marriages all of which are discussed in this film including an interview with one of his ex-wives. Many luminaries of the entertainment industry are consulted for their views on the man including Carlos Santana, Eric Clapton, Bill Wyman, Dr John, Bobby Bland, Ringo Starr, Bono, Buddy Guy, John Mayall and more. One of the real highlights of this documentary are interviews with ordinary people who knew him growing up including relatives, early influences, employers and many more. There is lots of interesting archival footage both of performances and interviews with him over the years plus some interview material from various television shows about his guitar style, career and more.

     As a fan of blues music and B.B. himself, I was surprised by how much I got out of this documentary and how interesting it was. It is narrated by Morgan Freeman which is certainly a good choice. An excellent documentary of interest to music fans everywhere.


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Transfer Quality


     The video quality is very good.

     The feature is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio which is the original aspect ratio. It is 16x9 enhanced.

     The picture was sharp and clear for DVD. Shadow detail was very good. Obviously, these comments apply to the new footage and the archival footage has all the challenges you would expect but it has certainly been cleaned up as much as possible.

     The colour is also very good for DVD.

     There was some minor aliasing at times.

     There are burned-in subtitles for people who are hard to understand.

     The layer change is quite noticeable causing a significant pause.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The audio quality is excellent for DVD.

     This disc contains an English soundtrack in Dolby Digital 5.1.

     Dialogue was clear and easy to understand.

     The music was great as you would expect featuring many of B.B.'s best tunes.

     The surround speakers were surprisingly well used for atmosphere, surround effects, thunder, rain and the music.

     The subwoofer supported the music.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


     Some decent extras


     The menu is good featuring scenes and music.

Extended Interviews (24:51)

     Extra interview material with Buddy Guy, Mick Hucknall, Ron Wood, Bonnie Raitt, Derek Trucks, Bobby Bland, Carlos Santana, John Mayall and more. Worth watching as some interesting topics are discussed.

Royal Albert Hall Performance (8:15)

     Two songs from a 2012 performance at the Royal Albert Hall featuring Mick Hucknall, Ron Wood, Slash, Derek Trucks & Susanne Tedechi. The songs are See that My Grave is Kept Clean and The Thrill is Gone. Not spectacular but certainly worth having.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This DVD is available in other regions however I cannot find any details of its contents. It is also available on Blu-ray here and overseas.


    An excellent documentary about one of the greats of modern music, B.B. King.

    The video quality is very good.

    The audio quality is excellent.

    The extras are worthwhile.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Saturday, April 12, 2014
Review Equipment
DVDSONY BDP-S760 Blu-ray, using HDMI output
DisplaySharp LC52LE820X Quattron 52" Full HD LED-LCD TV . Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt into amplifier. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationMarantz SR5005
SpeakersMonitor Audio Bronze 2 (Front), Bronze Centre & Bronze FX (Rears) + Sony SAW2500M Subwoofer

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