Little Willie John

Complete Hit Singles A's & B's

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Prior to Real Gone's 2012 double-disc The Complete Hit Singles A's & B's, there had been many Little Willie John collections, many of them excellent, but none captured this R&B trailblazer in all his glory the way this 36-track does. Part of this is due to the mere luxury of space: it is the only compilation to run longer than a single disc. Even at that generous length there are tremendous songs left behind -- "My Baby's in Love with Another Guy," which closed Rhino's 1993 disc Fever, the previous best-available Little Willie John collection, isn't here -- but this strictly follows the rubric of the title, running down both sides of his King singles from 1955 to 1961. Each of the big hits -- "All Around the World," "Fever," "Leave My Kitten Alone," "I'm Shakin'" -- are here, each familiar through many covers, and they're enough to establish his considerable legacy, but the obscurities littered throughout the rest of the compilation illustrate the depth of his talent. Little Willie John could beg, plead, and testify; he could shake and shimmy; he soared to great heights -- heights that were heard on his A-sides but also the flips that are collected here, on this essential collection of pioneering R&B.

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