Ivory Joe Hunter

Blues, Ballads & Rock 'n' Roll

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All 28 of these tracks are from Hunter's 1955-59 stint with Atlantic Records, the period which saw him find his greatest pop success. Since Hunter's career was so lengthy, it inevitably omits enough material so that it could not be considered his best-of; "I Almost Lost My Mind," for instance, is not here. On the other hand, his biggest hit, "Since I Met You Baby," is on the CD, as are his big R&B charters "A Tear Fell," "It May Sound Silly," "Empty Arms," "Love's a Hurting Game," and "Yes I Want You." Though Hunter just about qualified as a rock & roll artist during this time, he was in fact smoother than just about any other black 1950s rock & roll singer, and indeed smoother than most 1950s R&B artists. At times this sounds a bit like Nat King Cole going rock & roll, and there's a prominent country tinge to some of his ballads, "Since I Met You Baby" being the pre-eminent example. As the title of this disc signifies, he was a versatile cat, trying out jump blues, smoochers, fairly straightforward rock & roll ("Shooty Booty"), and novelties ("I Got to Learn to Mambo"). That, in some ways, makes this a more engaging listen than the average single-artist 1950s R&B comp, though at the same time it doesn't reach the energetic peaks scaled by many other major performers of the era. Listen to a doo wop- and pop-inflected cut like "I Want Somebody," and you get an idea of why Hunter was such a big influence on Elvis Presley. His Atlantic output did suffer slightly, though, from some obvious attempts to duplicate the formula of "Since I Met You Baby." [This U.K. import is not available for sale in North America.]

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