Little Willie John

Heaven All Around Me: The Later King Sessions 1961-63

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The third and final of Ace's series documenting Little Willie John's recordings for King is the weakest of the trio, though like the others it's a great service to fans who want as much of his output as possible available on CD. All of these two dozen sides originally appeared on 1961-1964 singles, with the exception of one previously unissued track, "Like Boy, Like Girl," which is actually one of the better cuts. By this time, John's records had largely stopped selling, though his last big R&B hit, 1961's "Take My Love (I Want to Give It All to You)," is included on this disc. His voice remained as strong and soulful as ever, but the material he was given -- most of these songs, unlike "Take My Love (I Want to Give It All to You)," weren't written by John himself -- was largely unimpressive. What's more, though this doesn't really matter so many years after this was recorded, it was also passé, for the most part not reflecting the trends that had displaced him from the charts. The best tunes here tend to be the covers of well-known songs, like the orchestrated version of the pop standard "(I'm Afraid) The Masquerade Is Over"; "Every Beat of My Heart," the Johnny Otis composition that was a big hit for the Pips; and, in a much more unlikely selection, the country hit "She Thinks I Still Care." Other songs are often dragged down by a formulaic early rock & roll feel that was becoming dated by the early 1960s, and "Mister Glenn," inspired by astronaut John Glenn, even tries to ride a novelty bandwagon. While the sessions John did in early 1966 for Capitol (now available on the Ace CD Nineteen Sixty Six: The David Axelrod & H.B. Barnum Sessions) weren't great, they nonetheless found him more comfortably adapting to the times. This collection isn't so bad either, but is more for dedicated John fans than the typical soul listener looking for the best one or two compilations of the singer's work. Incidentally, the liner notes, in addition to being up to Ace's usual high standard, are of more interest than usual in this case, including fascinating if sad descriptions of letters exchanged between John and King label boss Syd Nathan in the final years of John's life, when John was facing imprisonment or incarcerated.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 02:59 Amazon
2 02:47 Amazon
3 02:42 Amazon
03:08 Amazon
5 02:38 Amazon
6 02:47 Amazon
02:28 Amazon
03:02 Amazon
9 03:07 Amazon
02:25 Amazon
11 02:05 Amazon
12 02:46 Amazon
13 02:53 Amazon
14 02:40 Amazon
15 02:04 Amazon
16 02:48 Amazon
17 02:10 Amazon
18 02:08 Amazon
19 02:38 Amazon
20 02:16 Amazon
02:21 Amazon
02:43 Amazon
23 02:13 Amazon
24 02:19 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick