While most of the rockabilly cats who recorded for Sun Records in its heyday seemed to believe in the idea that less is more, fronting bands that rarely had more than four pieces, Sonny Burgess had different ideas -- his group the Pacers was a full-bodied affair, featuring two guitars, bass, drum, piano and a trumpet, giving his best recordings a broad and full-bodied sound that sets his work apart from his peers. Burgess also was willing to sway back and forth between his country and R&B influences, making his boogie-fied sound harder to pigeonhole than most of the lesser-known rockers who emerged in the South during the 1950s. Arkansas Wild Man collects 25 tunes recorded during Burgess' 1956-1960 tenure with Sun, most of which didn't see release until many years after they were recorded. While Burgess is in appropriately loose and lively form throughout this set, some of these cuts were outtakes for a very good reason, especially the oddball "Mama Loochie" and the oddly generic "My Little Town Baby." But the best stuff here more than lives up to Burgess' frantic legend, especially his near-hits "We Wanna Boogie" and "Red Headed Woman," the rollicking "Ain't Got a Thing," the sassy strut of "Daddy Blues," and the crazed "Sadie's Back in Town" (complete with Donald Duck impersonations!). The Very Best of Sonny Burgess: We Wanna Boogie is still the best single Burgess collection available, but this disc runs a close second, and offers a fine overview of his roaring days in the '50s (as well as the disappointing truth about his red hair).
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming