Rock 'n Roll
Walking To New Orleans
Imperial / Capitol (72435-37374-2-9)
Among 50's/early 60's rockers, only Elvis Presley sold more
records than Antoine "Fats" Domino. Although an
extraordinary commercial success (37 Top-40 hits), Domino
was never accorded the respect of his more flamboyant peers.
This four CD, 100-song boxed set provides long overdue tribute
while correcting some of the mistakes of 1991s similar
They Call Me The Fat Man. The chief differences? Walking To
New Orleans has been remastered in 24-bit digital sound, they
play at the same speed as when they were originally released,
the liner notes are more accurately researched, and the song
line-up features 17 different tracks.
This entire collection is not only enjoyable -- its
a damned revelation to boot. Domino may have repeated formulas
and themes, but he was competing in a hit singles market,
where easy identification and repetition were important factors.
Yet his sound was varied endlessly, and his affable vocals
worked in many innovative settings. The big hits we all know
("Blueberry Hill," "I'm Walking," "Blue
Monday," "Ain't It A Shame," etc.) are here
and they still sound great. However, more amazing are the
seldom-reissued tunes that Fats recorded before they renamed
his music rock'n'roll. Such seminal ditties as "The Fat
Man," "She's My Baby," "Boogie Woogie
Baby," and nearly every song on disc one showcases Fats
as a hard-driving piano stomper! Many of these topped the
r&b charts when they were first released, but have been
unjustly ignored since.
Listening to these brilliantly executed, danceable grooves
today, it is clear that Domino and co-writer/producer Dave
Bartholomew helped recast blues, swing, and "race music"
to invent the form we now know as rock'n'roll (and did it
YEARS before Little Richard made his first attempts). Even
the later string-fed adult contemporary crossover material
is bluesy, fun, and has aged quite well. If youre looking
for a domestic collection with greater impact than the standard
hits package, this one comes strongly recommended. - Ken
Capitol / 72436-40682-2-5
Rockin With Wanda
Capitol / 72436-40683-2-4
Whether rasping out gems of frustrated sensuality like "Mean,
Mean Man," "Fujiyama Mama," or joyously whooping
through "Lets Have a Party", Wanda Jackson competed
with male artists on their terms and often won. Her hot-tempered
sexuality leaked through every fast song she ever recorded
and seemingly proclaimed "All's fair in love, war, and
rock 'n' roll!"
Jacksons first two LPs brilliantly demonstrate her peerless
abilities as both a cry-in-your-beer country singer and raspy-voiced
rocker. The Oklahoma natives self-titled debut sports
some much appreciated versions of "Long Tall Sally,"
"Money Honey," and her 1960 breakthrough rockabilly
hit "Lets Have A Party." Far more revealing
are the plaintive Kitty Wells-drenched renditions of "Making
Believe," Joan Webers "Let Me Go, Lover,"
"Half As Good A Girl," "I Cant Make My
Dreams Understand," and "Just A Queen For A Day."
In the days before she utilized the coquettish trill of her
dual market hit "Im In The Middle Of a Heartache,"
these sides revealed Jacksons true career aspirations.
That said, "Rockin With Wanda" is the more
remarkable rockabilly statement. Included are the wild sexy
ravers that made Jackson a legend -- "Fujiyama Mama,"
"Hot Dog ! That Made Him Mad," "Mean, Mean
Man, " "Baby Loves Him," "Rock Your Baby,"
and "Honey Bop." Less forceful, but every bit as
cool are the half-waltz time/half rockin "I Gotta
Know" (a #15 country hit in 1956) and the openly seductive
"Savin My Love." As bold as these performances
sound today, they mustve frightened the hell out of
50s/60s radio programmers.
Amid the curiosities reside the cutesy teen-pop of "A
Date With Jerry" the calypso-influenced "Dona
Wana," and barroom weepers "Reaching"
and Id Rather Have You." Hard to imagine how this
eclectic mix went down with record buyers of the time, but
they do demonstrate Jacksons versatility on an otherwise
hot rocknroll set. - Ken Burke
Vincent & His Blue Caps
Capitol / 72435-40684-2-3
Capitol / 72435-40685-2-2
Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps were the ultimate greasy rockers.
Guitarist Cliff Gallup and snare drummer Dickie "Be-Bop"
Harrell accentuated their jazzy bop style, and provided the
perfect sonic framework that allowed their singer to jam out
roadhouse rockabilly or emote r&b ballads with the best
of his era.
Moreover, Vincents first two LPs - featured on these
two Capitol reissues augmented with several high-powered bonus
tracks - succeed on a grander scale than any of Elvis Presleys
albums from the 50s.
Backed by the original Blue Caps, not only did Vincent personify
Cat Music with unrivaled zeal and polish, the Virginia-born
pioneer boldly tackled unlikely material. Who else could transform
such Tin Pan Alley warhorses as "Lazy River," "Jezebel,"
"Aint She Sweet," "Peg O My Heart,"
and "Wedding Bells (Are Breaking Up That Old Gang Of
Mine)" into working models of Bop and its variant possibilities?
Featuring cleaner, warmer sound than Collectables recent
reissues, its hard to say which disc is the better Gene
Vincent reissue. Juiced up with such hot rockin bonus
tracks as "Be-Bop-A-Lula," "Race With The Devil,"
"Woman Love" and "Crazy Legs" the "Bluejean
Bop" collection features some of the best r&b-fed
rocknroll ever made. Besides the aforementioned
standards, Vincent and crew skillfully employ tension and
release dynamics on the title track, "Gonna Back Up Baby,"
"Who Slapped John," "Bop Street," and
sensual "I Flipped." Evoking a true sense of liberation,
the Blue Caps rebel yell like a motorcycle gang in heat. Meanwhile
their leader alternately broods and swaggers with an authority
that makes modern singers seem like comparative poseurs.
On "Gene Vincent & His Blue Caps," Vincent is
vocally more aggressive on such tough ditties as "Cat
Man," "Hold Me, Hug Me, Rock Me," "Cruisin,"
"B-I-Bickey-Bi, Bo-Go-Go," and showcases his bluesy
side most confidently with "Five Days, Five Days"
and the Delmore Brothers "Blues Stay Away From
Me." The interplay between guitarist Cliff Gallup and
drummer Dickie "Be-Bop" Harrell is fluid and intuitive,
showing off Vincents tense vibrato to maximum effect.
Many fans have already latched on to these essential sides
in boxed sets, on original vinyl, or various compilations.
However, if you want to wipe that look of mystification off
your friends faces when trying to define what great
rocknroll was truly about, make them a present
of the Blue Caps collections.- Ken Burke
Cash & The Tennessee Two
The Complete Original Sun Singles
Varese Sarabande / 302 066 056 2
Decades before he was dubbed "The Man In Black,"
experienced the sin and redemption of a widely publicized
pill habit, or was rediscovered by the punk-alt. country crowd,
Johnny Cash made music that was every bit as revolutionary
as Elvis Presleys. In an era filled with gimmicks and
signature styles, Cashs quavering baritone was one of
the most unique of vocal instruments. Neither pure folk nor
pure country, his voice made allusions to the big sounds of
the Delta blues and Rockabilly.
Aided by the original Tennessee Two, Luther Perkins on guitar,
Marshall Grant on stand-up bass, Cash (who often accentuated
the beat by weaving wax paper through his guitar strings)
forged an honest, expressive sound in Sam Phillips Sun
Studio in Memphis. The resultant body of work is second only
to the massive catalog compiled by labelmate Jerry Lee Lewis,
and makes a clear case for Cash being Suns finest singer/songwriter.
The very cream of Cashs Sun work is collected on this
highly recommended 40-song, 2-disc set. Every big hit is here
from "Cry! Cry! Cry!" to the recently revived "Mean-Eyed
Cat." The records which truly made Cashs career
and persona "Folsom Prison Blues," "I Walk
The Line," and "Big River" still sound better
than anything on country radio today. Although today the vocal
chorus work on "Guess Things Happen That Way," "Ballad
Of A Teenage Queen," and "The Ways Of A Woman In
Love" sound a bit dated, its important to realize
that if Jack Clement hadnt sweetened these tracks, they
might never have hit the pop charts.
Clement is an important feature on this collection. After
Sam Phillips turned the studio over to him, the label achieved
its most sustained success. At a point when Cash was saving
his best songs for his eventual move to Columbia, Clement
penned material for Cash every bit as good as his stars.
He also augmented the Tennessee Two sound with the piano stylings
of Charlie Rich, Jimmy Wilson, and Jerry Lee Lewis.
There are a few surprises, mainly the inclusion of Cashs
first recording "Wide Open Road," which boasts the
ill-begotten efforts of steel player A.W. Kernoodle, and the
religious track which almost kept him from being offered a
Sun contract "Belshazah." (Phillips was once quoted
as saying he loved gospel music but it didnt sell. When
Cash left Sun for Columbia, it was as much for freedom to
record scared material as it was for monetary considerations.)
Mostly, there is just track after track of truly great music
from an irreplaceable American original.
Twangsters will dig this for the honky-tonk heartache, rockabillies
will groove to the slapback and the Tennessee Twos inimitable
style, and folkies just might realize that there might not
have been a Bob Dylan if these great sides hadnt been
cut. If you dont already own a set of Cash Sun sides,
this is the one to get. www.veresesarabande.com.-
The Complete Cadence Recordings 1957-1960
Varese Sarabande / 302 066 217 2
Yes, the Everly Brothers were honored in their time with awards,
fame, money, and a huge string of hit records. Yet somehow,
the up and coming rockabillies and neo-traditional types ignore
their works. Hopefully, this two-disc, 47-song collection
will help change that.
Naturally all the duos great uptempo hits are here,
"Bye Bye Love," "Wake Up Little Susie,"
"Claudette," "Bird Dog, "Poor Jenny,"
as well as the romantic classics "All I Have To Do Is
Dream," "Devoted To You," "When Will I
Be Loved." and "(Til) I Kissed You."
Other potent highlights include their reinvention of Ray Charles
"Leave My Woman Alone," the complete Songs Our Daddy
Taught Us LP, and zingy alternate takes of "Should We
Tell Him" and "Poor Jenny." Great writing by
Felice & Beaudleaux Bryant alternating with Everlys
own remarkable material are nearly impossible to match on
a song by song basis. The boys telepathic harmony sense
and catchy, percussive acoustic guitar attack still comprises
an invigorating listening experience.
This set also boasts several previously unreleased songs --
mostly spare demos plaintively cut by brother Phil. If you
arent affected by "I Cant Recall," or
"Wishing Wont Make It So," than maybe true
roots music isnt for you. In 1960, the Everlys
left Cadence for Warner Brothers, where they changed their
sound, and made a few great singles along with several noble
commercial and artistic failures. On this essential set, their
talent is joyously unfettered and heartbreakingly pure, and
every note plays out with the impending success of expectant
youth.- Ken Burke
The Specialty Sessions
Specialty / SPCD 8508
Through sheer over-the-top braggadocio and grossly inaccurate
statements about his place in history, Little Richard has
severely damaged the perception of both his career and talents.
In the process, the Georgia-born Richard Penniman simultaneously
ridiculed his peers and demeaned his own art. Lets set
the record straight shall we? Fats Domino and Big Joe Turner
were hitting the charts with rocknroll tunes long
before Little Richard did. Richard did sign with an RCA subsidiary
years before Elvis Presley landed there, but his recordings
were watered down jump blues with none of the force and verve
of his Specialty sides. By contrast, pre-rock jump blues king
Wynonie Harris was far more outrageous on record during that
Further, Richards assertions to the contrary, Chuck
Berry was a better songwriter and more influential musician
who made a greater sustained impact on the pop charts. Bill
Haleys "Rock Around The Clock" sold more than
everything Richard did during his entire career combined.
Finally, Elvis Presley was proclaimed "King of RocknRoll"
by public acclamation - not through the type of public connivance
and supercilious personal demands Richard made on TV talk
Lets set something else straight while were at
Little Richard was early rocks greatest vocalist. No
less a figure than Chuck Berry has said so. James Brown, Dee
Clark, Otis Redding, and Paul McCartney used his sound as
the jumping off point for their own careers.
A fiery shouter whose intensity added layers of earthy meaning
to the most sublimely ridiculous lyrics ("Wop-bop-a-lu-bop-a-wop-bam-boom!"),
the former dishwasher threw Pentecostal fear into parents
and thrilled his listeners. The proof? This 3 CD, 73-song
collection of his seminal rock recordings makes Little Richard's
claim to greatness more profoundly than a thousand ridiculous
Backed by the same swinging New Orleans session men who worked
with Fats Domino - Lee Allen, Earl Palmer, Alvin "Red"
Tyler, etc., Richard laid down an amazing run of hit singles.
"Tutti Frutti," "Long Tall Sally," "Good
Golly Miss Molly," "Lucille," "Ready Teddy,"
and so many others burst through the speakers with inspired
lunacy and energy. His own hard-pounding piano sound and cracked
note treble runs - taught to him by an obscure r&b performer
known as Esquerita, provides cathartic, percussive release.
In short, this is rocknroll!
Granted, you could get all of Little Richards best songs
from the 50s on Rhinos excellent "The Georgia Peach"
collection. But on this set you can hear Richards transformation
from journeyman r&b singer performing tepid renditions
of "Kansas City" and "All Night Long,"
to the rasping, defiant firebrand who waxed "Keep A Knockin"
and "The Girl Cant Help It."
Richard came up with the idea behind many of his best songs.
Indeed, there is something compelling about the early version
of "Long Tall Sally" called "The Thing,"
and the pushcart vendor-inspired "I Got It", later
redone as the leering shout "Shes Got It."
However, Specialty owner Art Rupe and producer Bumps Blackwell
smartly honed Richards raw sound into the potent radio-ready
brain blasts they became. Without those integral figures,
its likely Richard would have remained a mere club performer.
Its also important to note that with the exception of
a song here and there, Richards work stopped being an
important factor once he left the environs of Specialty.
Included here also are Richards amazing radio spots
for Royal Crown Hair Dressing and ill-fated 1964 return to
Specialty wherein the force and fury were still evident on
such revivalist fare as "Well Alright!" and "Bama
Lama Bama Loo."
Neither a quick study nor stylistically deep artist, Richard
compiled a smaller catalog of recordings during his classic
period than any performer of his stature. That said, an unusually
high percentage of these sides were r&b hits and a few
were pop smashes that helped tear down radios color
barrier. These still dynamic sides are absolutely essential
to any serious collection of rocknroll. - Ken
Have Guitar, Will Travel
1960 release is about as good a proper album as I’ve heard
from any artist who got things going in the Fifties. This
is just a testament to Bo’s versatility as an artist – the
first side is simply perfect. “She’s Alright” is a rollicking
gospel-blues, and shows off Bo as a singer. Every bit of energy
in the studio comes off the grooves. “Cops and Robbers” is
a talking blues story-song that The Rolling Stones included
on their demo for Decca Records. “Run Diddley Daddy” is a
frantic blast of rock (not to be confused with the Bo’s slower
“Diddley Daddy”), with Bo’s fretboard runs forging new ground
for rock guitar with each note. He goes a level farther on
the instrumental “Mumblin’ Guitar”, using reverb, effects
and playing seemingly every part of the instrument, including
the neck, while Jerome Green goes nuts on the maracas. The
side closes with his plaintive soul number “Need You Baby”
(also known as “Mona”). The second side isn’t so incredible,
though it features Bo and Jerome trading insults, like “Your
mama’s so skinny she’s gotta tie knots in her legs to have
knees”, on the minor hit “Say Man, Back Again”. But there’s
no real filler and this album shows that Bo was a bluesman,
a rocker, a soul shouter and primarily, an innovator – Mike