Little Richard

Little Richard [1958]

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Little Richard was not only one of the first great stars of rock & roll, he was one of the young music's first great cultural affronts, and while he was selling records hand over first in 1955 and 1956, he seemed strange to squares in a way Chuck Berry or Fats Domino couldn't quite match, with his beyond-crazed performing style and ambiguous fashion sense. For Richard's second LP, 1958's simply titled Little Richard, Specialty Records' A&R men got the clever idea that by covering a few old standards, the Georgia Peach might win over some parents who had been put off by his earlier work. The flaw in this thinking was that by the time Richard got through with "Baby Face" and "By the Light of the Silvery Moon," they sounded like Little Richard tunes -- which is to say the vocals howled, the piano rang out like church bells on speed, and his band swung hard behind it all. Little Richard was every bit as rockin' as his first album, if not more so; "Keep A'Knockin'," "Lucille," "Good Golly Miss Molly," and "The Girl Can't Help It" were hits for the right reason, "All Around the World" is still a clarion call for the power of the music (and most adults were probably not comforted by the song's proclamation that young fans of the big beat "never have time for romance/ they only wanna dance"), "Send Me Some Lovin'" slows down the tempo while still laying out the good groove, "Ooh! My Soul" is deliciously lascivious, and there isn't a single throwaway among the 12 tunes on deck. Richard's band (sadly unidentified by name) are in glorious form as well, and Cosimo Matassa (who recorded the bulk of these songs at his tiny J&M Studios in New Orleans) makes these sessions sound as raucous as they deserved. Little Richard was too crazed to win over many suspicious parents in 1958, but thankfully it wails loud enough that no one was likely to hear them complain, and it still gets the party started 50 years on.

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