Various Artists

Duke-Peacock's Greatest Hits

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Duke and Peacock were Houston-based blues and R&B labels that released quite a string of popular and influential records in the '50s and '60s. Don Robey founded Peacock in 1949 and brought in the successful but struggling Duke label in 1953. It isn't mentioned in the title of the disc but included also are some tunes released on Robey's teenage-directed label, Back Beat, which sprung to life in 1957. Duke-Peacock's Greatest Hits gathers up 16 hip-shaking and house-rocking tunes from the formidable archives of the three labels. The collection covers a big chunk of ground: proto-rock & roll from Big Mama Thornton ("Hound Dog"), R&B ballads from Johnny Ace ("The Clock," "Pledging My Love"), big-city blues from Big Walter Price (the wild "Pack Fair and Square") and Bobby "Blue" Bland ("Farther up the Road" and the breathtaking "I Pity the Fool"), country-soul from Joe Hinton (a transcendent take of Willie Nelson's classic "Funny [How Time Slips Away]"), good-time frat rock from Roy Head ("Treat Her Right"), '70s bubblegum soul from Carl Carlton ("Everlasting Love"), and deep soul from the underrated O.V. Wright ("Eight Men, Four Women"). The records made strictly for teens weren't up to the same high standards but are still decent: the El Torros' "Dance With Me" has an arresting melody. These few slight missteps aren't enough to sink the record; it's still a dynamic and exciting record that serves as a nice piece of history and a guaranteed floor-filler at your next rent party.

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