"Here's Little Richard," Little Richard (Specialty)
There are several pivotal moments in early rock 'n' roll — Elvis Presley's 1954 recording of "That's All Right" and Bill Haley's 1955 smash "Rock Around the Clock" are two of the standouts. But the release of Little Richard's 1955 recording of "Tutti Frutti" was the most raucous expression of rock 'n' roll to hit the airwaves. Richard (born Richard Wayne Penniman) had been recording before he signed with Specialty Records, but it was at Specialty that he pulled out all the stops and became the wildest man in rock 'n' roll.
This re-issue of Richard's debut album is one of the cornerstones of rock. "Tutti Frutti," "Ready Teddy," "Slippin' and Slidin'," "Long Tall Sally," "Rip It Up," "Jenny Jenny," "She's Got It" and a handful of lesser-known classics all reside here. This is the age when piano and saxophone were the primary rock instruments and guitar was still taking a backseat. And if you think Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis weren't paying attention you'd be wrong.
Presley regularly covered Richard's songs ,and they appeared on Presley's first two albums, almost two years before Richard's singles were put on an album.
Richard has always claimed to be the architect of rock 'n' roll, the true king of rock 'n' roll but the truth is he isn't that far off the mark.
This re-issue sounds great and includes bonus demo versions of "Baby" and "All Night Long," an interview with Specialty Records founder Art Rupe and two videos of Little Richard's screen tests for the film "Don't Knock the Rock." The bonuses are nice, but the music is a piece of rock history that everyone needs.
"Locked Down," Dr. John (Nonesuch)
Malcolm John "Mac" Rebennack became Dr. John back in the 1960s with his combination of theatrics and swampy New Orleans rock.
In the time since, he's had some triumphs (including the hit "Right Place, Wrong Time" and a string of classic, but underheard, albums) and few missteps. Mostly, the good doctor has spent decades underappreciated.
Sometimes it takes another artist who is a true fan to help bring an artist the attention he deserves.
Dan Auerbach (of the Black Keys) stepped up to produce "Locked Down." The disc captures the singer/pianist/bandleader in his element.
It's not the perfect Dr. John record, but it's his best in more than a decade. Maybe it will turn on a new generation to some musical medicine they didn't know they needed.
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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