One of the most misunderstood artists in popular music was Charlie Rich. He was also one of the most gifted; his talent was virtually boundless. While many artists showcased some of their best years on the Sun label, including Carl Perkins, Bill Justis, Jerry Lee Lewis, and countless others, Rich's body of work during and after Sun showcases a musical mind and piano stylist virtually unequaled. The Sun recordings originally appeared on a subsidiary Sam Phillips set up in 1957 called Phillips International. The 18 tracks included here represent the nine singles Rich cut for the label. And while most folks who've followed Rich's career even casually know he cut "Break Up," "Lonely Weekends," "Who Will the Next Fool Be," "Everything I Do Is Wrong," and "No Headstone on My Grave" (all of which he authored), they only know one side of the story. The true scorch of Rich's rock & roll years is here too, in a track such as the opening "Whirlwind," his first single cut in August of 1958 with a killer boogie-woogie piano line under a doo wop chorus backing Rich's rockabilly hiccup. Though he didn't write it, he wrote the flip and virtually everything else he recorded for Sun.
"Philadelphia Baby" is down in the tough and raw R&B mode that sounds like the Big Bopper crossed with Big Joe Turner. "Rebound," with its heartbroken vocal and furious piano-pumpin' tempo, is one of the most mysterious moments in a career full of them. "Break Up" was originally written for Jerry Lee Lewis, but given his untimely marriage to his 13-year old cousin, Rich's version feels completely different. Elvis should have cut this one. Of course, in 1959 when he hit with "Lonely Weekends," everyone knew who Rich was but they weren't prepared for his eclecticism, though Phillips clearly was. "Gonna Be Waiting," issued in 1960, was an R&B shouter in the same vein as Ray Charles' music of the time. But the ballads work too, such as the country/doo wop fusion tune called "Caught in the Middle," with its teen idol melody line and honky tonk piano, and "Who Will the Next Fool Be," which Rich failed to score with but Bobby "Blue" Bland did. Rich's version kicks its ass all over the street. Also here is the original single version of "Midnite Blues" and the tough in the groove blues of "There Won't Be Anymore," in its original setting, with Rich growling and crooning his way through it, tearing the seams from the genres and opening up the world of heartache to a boundless world of sound that comes from the ether. This purchase is not debatable for anyone interested in rockabilly, blues, great country, or Rich.