Saturday, October 15, 2011
Directly From My Heart To You
"Little Richard 5 Classic Albums Plus Bonus Singles" has arrived and it's certainly worth the $7.50 + $2.98 shipping. There are four CDs here
The first comprises Little Richard's first two album for Specialty
The second contains his third and final album for the label + tracks from compilations, film and live cuts from his Australian comeback tour.
Third disc features his first two gospel albums
Fourth disc is all single sides
There are NO liner notes - just a track listing on the back that does let you know what album the various tracks stem from.
The first two discs -- well I'm glad to have ALL the Specialty material instead of a just a greatest hits. I don't think there's anything left to say about the these performances -- this is a feral yet stylish as rock n roll ever got. I've said this before and I'll stand by it: everything important about rock n roll TO ME is contained in these performances. I'd trade the entire subsequent history of rock music for this in a heartbeat. Nothing that came after added anything but veneer and froufrou. Period.
Disc three had me really intrigued as the idea of Little Richard performing gospel -- as if blues and R&B aren't essentially secular lyrics set to gospel jams in the first place -- was highly appealing. But as I listened through these...it appears that Richard felt the need to change his singing voice as well as his lifestyle and message in embracing a sacral path. His singing is nothing but fine, but it's more plummy, restrained and polite. Meanwhile, he's joined, and often overwhelmed, by a full choir on the majority of tracks. So while "Pray Along With" are fine gospel albums per se, they do NOT feature Little Richard bringing his signature incendiary voice and ecstatic singing style to the gospel genre. Which is sorta strange as his "rock" style is so clearly influenced by the most extremely expressive and inspired gospel performance style in the first place. So this disc winds up being primarily of educational value. But important in that this is what Richard gave up his burgeoning pop career to pursue -- so it's fascinating to hear what he had in mind when he made that move.
Finally, the last disc is mysteriously labelled "singles, A & B's" Some titles overlap with the repertoire of his first two albums. Slapping that on, ya note very quickly that none of this is rock 'n' roll. There're blues, jump blues, early R&B etc. And Richard's not quite sounding himself, singing a bit higher pitched, somewhat smoother. So I grabbed the Richard biography, look up the discography and lo and behold these are all his pre-Specialty! All well and good and creditable performance in already popular styles -- but all pre-dating his stylistic quantum leap into the wild, wooly and shockingly fresh style he'd go on to do.
SO...for $7.50 (+ shipping) this set gathers together practically all the material from the start of Little Richard's career -- his first three precedent-setting albums, the single sides he cut before them, the gospel he abandoned rock to pursue and a few tastes of his first comeback. Some of this stuff is GREAT and the rest is wonderfully instructive.