Richard Pryor

Evolution/Revolution: The Early Years (1966-1974)

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Richard Pryor was seemingly funny right out of the womb, but it took him a while to become the best and bravest standup comic of his generation. Released in 1974, That Nigger's Crazy helped make the world aware of his pungent brilliance, and 1976's Bicentennial Nigger and 1979's Wanted: Live in Concert captured him at the very peak of his game, but Pryor had been knocking around for years before doing standup and acting, and Evolution/Revolution: The Early Years (1966-1974) is a two-CD set that attempts to make sense of the earlier stages of Pryor's recording career. Pryor released his first album in 1968, and the earliest material here finds him in surprisingly toothless form, though there's an undertow of bitterness and rage that struggles to rise to the surface; as much as he tries to be Bill Cosby, there's an edge here that doesn't quite permit it (especially when he does bits about his childhood), and the truest moment comes when he answers a heckler asking for less improv and more straight jokes by saying, "Why don't you go to Las Vegas? They got millions of comics doing that." It's near the end of disc one that the Pryor we know begins to come out, in a long bit about his old neighborhood that rings of the funny but corrosive truth that would become his hallmark. Disc two is dominated by material from Pryor's first album for the underground "party record" label Laff, 1971's Craps (After Hours), which offers a crude (and crudely recorded) variation on the full-blown genius of That Nigger's Crazy; if it isn't Pryor at his very best, it's the first full-bodied expression of the genius that was to come. This set also includes much of the material from early tapes that leaked out in fits and starts over the better part of a decade on low-budget albums for Laff and similar labels, while the discography in the liner booklet attempts to sort out the confusion these albums have always caused for Pryor completists. If you want to hear Richard Pryor when he was the greatest standup comic on Earth, you should pick up Rhino's superb The Richard Pryor Anthology: 1968-1992, or dig deep for the nine-disc box set ...And It's Deep, Too!: The Complete Warner Bros. Recordings. But if you want to hear how Pryor got there, Evolution/Revolution documents the journey very well indeed, and it's very funny and revealing stuff.

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 0:55
2 1:05
3 2:34
4 0:55
5 0:45
6 0:35
7 2:55
8 4:15
9 0:11
10 2:12
11 1:47
12 0:12
13 0:34
14 0:28
15 1:26
16 1:31
17 0:54
18 0:39
19 0:52
20 0:59
21 0:10
22 0:13
23 0:16
24 0:50
25 0:39
26 5:21
27 0:27
28 0:25
29 0:41
30 0:25
31 0:16
32 0:29
33 1:20
34 9:48
35 1:01
36 2:32
37 1:41
38 2:30
39 2:33
40 1:33
41 7:42
42 7:59
feat: David Felton
blue highlight denotes track pick