Lord Luther

I Am the Lord

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Think you know your early rock & roll, but have never heard of Lord Luther? Don't feel bad -- most rock experts haven't, though he had a pretty interesting and lengthy career on the R&B end of early rock's most raucous edge. If there's one record he participated in that made an impact, it was the 4 Deuces' "W-P-L-J," a fair-sized 1955 doo wop hit that would be done by the Mothers of Invention on their 1970 album Burnt Weeny Sandwich. That record leads off this 24-track compilation, a sort of crazy quilt of sides spanning the mid-'50s to the mid-'60s, including tracks by Lord Luther solo and as a frontman of many different groups. Though Lord Luther (real name Luther McDaniels) was something of a journeyman, as journeymen go he was one of the better ones, with a good feel for R&B/rock & roll crossover and a versatile vocal style that could handle ballads, rockers, and material with a comic streak. It might be going too far to call him something of a straighter version of Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Little Richard, or Esquerita, but there are similarities in his sense of fun, though in Luther's case it's more geared toward playfulness than lunacy. Combining rare 1955-1964 singles with ten previously unreleased tracks, the songs aren't indelible and Luther's vocals are somewhat short of searing, but it's a pleasing tour through pre-soul black rock & roll styles all the same. He really sounds at home with some of the more eccentric material, like "(I Was A) Teenage Creature" and the downbeat "Poor Boy's Song" and "Two of a Kind," the last two owing some debt to Little Willie John; arguably he could have played up that side of his repertoire more had he wanted to make a stronger impression. Compiler Alec Palao's liner notes make sense of the singer's colorful and scattered career, with participation from Lord Luther himself.